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Cause of fuel crisis 45 Guidelines ignored 109 Ministrys mistakes 114

Real Issues
As the run-up to the worlds biggest democratic
excercise begins, a panel of experts write on what
matters to the Indian voter

Afzals mercy petition 34
C O V ER S T O RY Time for change BOOKS 71

Wider ambit of law 37 Neoliberalism is in retreat and Election THE E N G LI S H

2009 presents an opportunity to bury it and
DRDOs hat-trick 41 go for an alternative development strategy. 4 LE TTE R S 121
Why BrahMos failed 44

Fuel crisis 45

Obamas plans for Iraq 49
New equations in the East 52
Sudan: ICC Warrant
against President Bashir 55
U.S.: A salvage operation 58
Spain: Victims of Franco 61

Highgate Cemetery 64

Indian record 80

Elections: Points to
ponder 85
Recession: Loss of Communalism: Ways of
Tragedy of history 90 livelihoods 8 Hindutva 26
Agriculture: A world of Social justice: Imperfect
ASTR ONO MY distress 11 sympathy 29
Solar spectacle 93 Ination: Price burden 15 Gender issues: Sense of
BA NKING Education: Lessons in betrayal 124
Credit card woes 101 apathy 18 Foreign policy:
Public health: Unhealthy American embrace 126
Culture police in
trend 21 Political perceptions 130
Karnataka 106
Campus cruelty 109
Interview: R.K. Raghavan, On the Cover
A Kashmiri woman after she cast her vote
Chairperson, Monitoring A CAG report blames the in the Assembly elections in
Committee for the Department of Atomic Energys November 2008.
Prevention of Ragging 110 poor planning and
mismanagement for the
uranium shortage. 45
Depressing scene 112 Published by N. RAM, Kasturi Buildings,
Vaccine asco 114 C RI M E 859 & 860, Anna Salai, Chennai-600 002 and
Ragging continues to defy a Printed by P. Ranga Reddy at Kala Jyothi
COL U M N solution as educational Process Private Limited, Survey No. 185,
Jayati Ghosh: institutions turn a blind eye to Kondapur, Ranga Reddy District-500 133,
Andhra Pradesh on behalf of Kasturi & Sons Ltd.,
Dealing with a the need for compliance with Chennai-600 002.
global crisis 88 Supreme Court guidelines. 109
Praful Bidwai: EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: N. RAM (Editor responsible

Fences & windows 98 P U B LI C H EA LT H for selection of news under the PRB Act). All
rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or
Bhaskar Ghose: The closure of three public
in part without written permission is prohibited.
Democracy in action 104 sector vaccine-producing units
R.K. Raghavan: has led to a shortage of e-mail: frontline@thehindu.co.in

The drug menace 119 vaccines in the countrywide Frontline is not responsible for the content of
immunisation programme. 114 external Internet sites.

F R O N T L I N E 3
APRIL 10, 2009

Cover Story


Neoliberalism is in retreat and Election 2009 presents an opportunity to bury it
and go for an alternative development strategy. B Y P R A B H A T P A T N A I K

Neoliberalism has developed in India insurance privatisation for instance, by a govern-

ment in its last days that had even been reduced to a
an economic model characterised by minority. But they oundered in the face of stiff
opposition by the trade unions, especially those in
immiserisation at one pole and the nancial sector, by the political Left, and by the
progressive intelligentsia. The glee with which the
accumulation of wealth at another. neoliberal establishment greeted the break between
the Left and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)
Its defeat will be possible only if the and the alacrity with which it demanded that the
neoliberal agenda should be rushed through after
state shakes off the hegemony of this break only underscore the signicance of the
Lefts resistance to neoliberalism. But even that re-
international nance capital. sistance was not enough. Even the half-triumph of
neoliberalism was enough to widen the hiatus in
THE triumph of neoliberalism in India was nev- Indian society and shake modern Indian society to
er complete. The nationalised banks continued to its very foundations.
remain state-owned; key public sector companies The formation of a modern Indian nation out of
were not privatised; pension funds were not handed an extraordinarily disparate population riven by mil-
over to speculative nance capital; the currency was lennia of caste, class, gender and other forms of
not made fully convertible; and the nancial sectors oppression is one of the marvels of our times. It was
holding of foreign assets, other than the foreign made possible through the prolonged anti-colonial
exchange reserves of the Reserve Bank of India struggle that was founded upon an implicit social
(RBI), continued to remain minuscule. In short, the contract. This implicit social contract, which had
two interlinked and mutually reinforcing processes been occasionally articulated earlier, notably in the
underlying neoliberalism, namely, the dismantling Karachi Congress Resolution of 1931, was sought to
of the public sector and integration with global - be given expression to in the Constitution of the
nance, remained arrested. Republic. And central to it were: electoral democra-
This happened not for want of trying by the cy based on universal adult franchise, secularism,
proponents of neoliberalism. Every means, fair and civil liberties, the end of caste and gender oppres-
foul, was adopted, including crash measures, for sion, and the building of an egalitarian society. An

4 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

present conditions such a transition is one policy to another; this switch was
simply not possible. The capacity of part of a shift from one kind of state to
such capitalist development to gener- another. The shift from Nehruvian di-
ate employment is so low that not pro- rigisme to neoliberalism in India was
tecting peasant and petty production part of a worldwide shift from dirigiste
against displacement by such capital- to neoliberal regimes; in the advanced
ist development can only produce a countries this shift was marked by the
growing army of unemployed and un- end of Keynesian demand manage-
deremployed paupers, that is, absolute ment. This worldwide shift was the
immiserisation at one pole together result of a process of globalisation of
with the growth of wealth at another. nance, which brought into being an
Indeed the higher the rate of international nance capital.
growth of the capitalist sector, the Nation-states pursuing dirigiste
greater will be the scale of such abso- policies had to bend to the caprices of
lute immiserisation, insofar as the international nance capital in order
higher growth impinges even more to prevent the ight of nance (unless
strongly on the petty production sec- they showed the political resolve to de-
tor. The view that the solution to the link themselves altogether from the
persistence and even accentuation of realm of globalised nance, which
poverty lies in the achievement of even bourgeois states typically did not). Ne-
higher rates of economic growth is oliberal policies, of sound nance
thus erroneous; the higher growth it- (involving at best a small specied s-

self can be, and has been, the cause of cal decit); of trade and nancial liber-
the accentuation of poverty. alisation; of rolling back the state from
The amelioration of poverty re- its interventionist role (except in the
quires a state that prevents the deci- interests of nance capital); of priv-
Hall of
I N TH E CE N T R A L mation of petty production by atising public sector units; and such
Parliament. Notwithstanding all capitalist development, that under- like represented the interests and out-
exhortations to keep development takes signicant expenditure to pro- look of international nance capital.
above politics, a euphemism for vide welfare benets to the entire Their pursuit accordingly entailed
getting a consensus around the working population and augment the a shift in the character of the state,
neoliberal agenda, such a consensus social wage in both capitalist and non- from one standing above classes and
proved elusive. capitalist sectors. The neoliberal state, mediating between them (even while
by its very nature, cannot do this; in- being a bourgeois state) to one that
economic regime that produces some deed it does the opposite. acted predominantly in the interests of
of the worlds top billionaires at one The term neoliberal state may the upper echelons of the bourgeoisie
end and thousands of peasant suicides cause surprise. After all, Nehruvian di- that was integrated with international
on the other is a violation of that social rigisme and neoliberalism are often nance capital. Expecting such a state
contract; it endangers the foundation seen as two alternative possible policy to defend and protect petty production,
of the modern Indian nation. And neo- sets that are available to the same to undertake welfare expenditure and
liberalism constituted such a violation, state, that is, the same state is seen to be to raise social wages, that is, to amelio-
above all by withdrawing state support capable of pursuing either the one or rate poverty, is a chimera.
from peasant and petty production. the other. But this is a mistake. The True, in India the transformation
Peasant and petty production can transition from one policy to the other in the nature of the state was never
survive the onslaught of capitalism on- entails a change in the class cong- complete. The framework of democra-
ly through the active intervention of uration underlying the state, a change cy constrained the march of neoliber-
the state, and such survival must be in the nature and composition of the alism, since within this framework the
ensured in a society like ours. The rea- dominant classes themselves, and neoliberal agenda could never muster
son is not that the travails of the people hence also a change in the nature of the sufcient support for its total triumph;
in the process of transition from a de- state. During the 1930s, for instance, and yet this framework itself could not
clining petty production economy to when import-substituting industrial- be jettisoned either. Notwithstanding
an emerging capitalist one become un- isation was undertaken in Latin Amer- all exhortations to keep development
bearable when they are between jobs, ica, replacing the earlier above politics, a euphemism for get-
and that the decline therefore needs to export-oriented strategy, this shift was ting a consensus around the neoliberal
be ne-tuned. It does, but that is not accompanied by major political up- agenda, such a consensus proved elu-
the reason. The reason is that in the heavals. It was not just a switch from sive. And yet even this half-triumph of

F R O N T L I N E 5
APRIL 10, 2009

neoliberalism, this semi-transforma- had squeezed vast masses of the pop- mean anything from building a road in
tion of the state, was quite enough to ulation during the boom has now pre- a village to building a ve-star hotel;
do considerable damage, above all cipitated a crisis in the course of which typically, the projects that are promot-
through its withdrawal of support to this squeeze will intensify. ed in the name of infrastructure de-
peasants and petty producers. But the crisis also spells the end of velopment prioritise the latter rather
The cut in subsidies increased the neoliberalism. It is obvious that the than the former, thereby ignoring peo-
input costs for the peasantry; the with- only way out of the global crisis is ples priorities. Secondly, the expendi-
drawal from the goal of social banking through scal stimuli in the form of ture of public money is better done
reduced institutional credit to agricul- increased government expenditures, directly through a government ac-
ture, throwing the peasantry back to which, to be effective, have to be coor- countable to the public than through
the mercy of moneylenders for loans at dinated across countries, and which, to transfers to private capitalists, the
exorbitantly high interest rates; the be politically acceptable, have to be need for which is never established
virtual winding up of extension servic- directed towards the welfare of the and the use of which is never
es increased the peasantrys direct ex- people. Such a coordinated stimulus, monitored.
posure to, and dependence upon, which would violate the tenets of An appropriate scal stimulus, in
multinational companies; trade liber- sound nance and re-establish the the form of larger government expen-
alisation made the peasantry vulner- proactiveness of the state, is obviously diture on health, education, sanita-
able to the vagaries of world market anathema for international nance tion, drinking water, rural
prices; the progressive dismantling of capital and is being resisted by it. This infrastructure, agricultural develop-
the domestic procurement mechanism resistance, however, only prolongs the ment, food security, and price support
removed even such protection as the crisis and strengthens the rejection of for the peasants and petty producers,
growers of crops covered by the Com- its ideology, neoliberalism, which is will necessarily require controls over
mission for Agricultural Costs and the cause both of the crisis and of its cross-border nancial ows to prevent
Prices (CACP) could have got; and persistence. Neoliberalism clearly has capital ight. It will also require an
above all public expenditure deation reached the end of its tether. appropriate regime of protection
in the countryside reduced rural pur- In India, however, a novel effort is which defends peasants and other pri-
chasing power drastically. being made to rescue it. The govern- mary commodity producers against
The upshot was not just agricultu- ment agrees that a scal stimulus has the crash in world prices, which de-
ral stagnation and a decline in per cap- to be provided to get the economy out fends petty producers against cheap
ita foodgrain output in the period after of the crisis, since all efforts at using imports, and in general against the
the beginning of the 1990s; it was also monetary policy to revive demand beggar-my-neighbour policies of
a decline in per capita foodgrain ab- have come a cropper. But in discussing other countries, and which ensures
sorption, which was even steeper than the nature of this scal stimulus it em- that the leakages of the impact of the
the output decline. The squeeze on phasises larger viability gap funding scal stimulus are minimised.
purchasing power in rural India was so for public-private-partnership (PPP) All these entail a retreat from neo-
drastic that notwithstanding the de- projects in the infrastructure sector. liberalism. But this retreat cannot be
clining per capita output, foodgrain Larger government expenditure, in seen only as a temporary one. Over-
stocks got built up whenever procure- other words, should take the form of coming the crisis has to be linked to an
ment operations were in force. And handing over larger amounts of funds alternative development trajectory, a
what was true of the peasants was to private capitalists in the name of trajectory of peasant agriculture-led
equally true of other sections of petty developing infrastructure. Since PPP growth, which requires an economic
producers as well. Squeezed between with viability gap funding was very regime altogether different from neo-
cheap imports on the one hand and much a part of the neoliberal agenda, liberalism. The neoliberal regime, in
rising input costs on the other, they this amounts to promoting neoliberal- other words, has to be buried for ever,
experienced signicant absolute im- ism even while apparently retreating which in turn is possible only if we
poverishment, to a point where their from it, in a Keynesian direction, shake off the hegemony of internation-
return per labour day fell below even through having a larger scal decit. al nance capital. The struggle against
the lowest minimum wage. This strategy is not just futile in the neoliberalism, which had restricted its
The tragedy, however, lies in the present context, when the inducement triumph to only a half-triumph, now
fact that the very same people who had to invest is so low that even larger go- needs to get intensied to roll it back
been immiserised during the boom vernment municence is unlikely to altogether.
will get further immiserised during the help in inducing larger private invest-
crisis that is now upon us, the crisis ment, but also undemocratic, in a dou- Womens issues: page 124.
that has been precipitated worldwide ble sense. First, infrastructure being Foreign policy deviations: page 126
Political perspectives on
by the triumph of neoliberalism itself. a portmanteau concept, promoting real issues: page 130
The same neoliberal dispensation that infrastructure development can

6 F R O N T L I N E
Cover Story APRIL 10, 2009

Loss of livelihoods
Programmes aimed at creating jobs were initiated late and provided little or
inadequate funding, and they fell short of their goals. B Y C . P . C H A N D R A S E K H A R

RECESSION A survey of 2,581 units in eight sectors estimated a

decline in employment from 16.2 million in
September 2008 to 15.7 million in December

2008, implying a loss of about half a million jobs.

IN a country where unemployment and unde- programme, arguing that the money allocated to
remployment are pervasive, it is to be expected that such schemes would nd its way to undeserving
the creation of new jobs and provision of decent recipients. It was only pressure from political forces
livelihoods would be an important election issue. In outside the UPA and from a clutch of civil society
India, around 8 per cent or less of the workforce has organisations (supported by inuential sections
formal and decent wage and salaried employment, within the UPA) that ensured that these goals were
and an overwhelming majority of workers are self- not consigned to the dustbin.
employed because many among them are unable to However, issues on which consensus should have
nd gainful wage employment. been immediate were transformed into contested
Not surprisingly, employment generation was a policies, which meant that these programmes, espe-
dominant issue in the previous election, so much so cially those aimed at generating employment and
that generating gainful employment and offering a improving livelihoods, were initiated late, provided
oor level of employment (100 days) for each house- little or inadequate funding (at least till very recent-
hold constituted two of the seven goals spelt out by ly) and fell well short of what could have been
the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the achieved.
United Progressive Alliance (UPA), when voted to As a result, in February this year, when the com-
power. pletion of three years of the National Rural Employ-
Five years later, the problem has not gone away. ment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) was being
The Interim Budget speech of the Finance Minister, celebrated, the government declared that over 360
drafted to read like a record of achievements of the crore person-days of employment had been generat-
UPA and a promise of what is to come if it is voted ed and over 32 lakh works had been taken up. Out of
once more to power, speaks of the need to make a total Budget outlay of Rs.53,300 crore in the three
growth inclusive by creating about 12 million new years, the expenditure had been Rs.41,756 crore of
work opportunities per annum. which Rs.28,227 crore (68 per cent) had been dis-
Why only 12 million jobs are needed every year is bursed as wages.
not too clear. But even this is an admission that The slow pace at which the programme has
growth that has been running at between 8 and 9 per evolved should be clear from the fact that in 2008-09
cent per annum, starting from the last year of the alone, according to the NREGA website, 175.13 crore
National Democratic Alliances (NDA) rule (2003- person-days of employment, covering 4.07 crore
04) and going through four years of the UPAs rule to households, had been generated. And the Interim
2007-08, has not helped create employment fast Budget has provided for Rs.30,100 crore for this
enough. scheme for the year 2009-10 alone.
Any objective assessment of the last ve years in These gures need to be put in context. If we
India must recognise that though the employment assume that a regular job offers 260 person-days of
objective was included in the CMP, the UPA govern- employment in a year, the equivalent number of full
ment that came to power initially sought to put it in job opportunities that the scheme has created in
cold storage. It dragged its feet and sought to scuttle 2008-09 is about 6.7 million and during the rst
efforts at implementing an employment guarantee three years of its operation, 13.9 million.

8 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

This compares with the conserva- ber of jobs created by the normal proc- 1999-2000 and 2004-05. It is only for
tively estimated 12 million new work ess of growth in the economy is small, the registered manufacturing sector
opportunities that are seen as required and that these jobs are substantially of that information is available on a more
every year by the Interim Budget or a a kind that does not qualify as decent regular basis through the Annual Sur-
total of 36 million over three years. employment. Unfortunately, data on vey of Industries. But even that is cur-
Thus, while it is true that marginalised employment and unemployment in rently available only until 2005-06.
sections such as the Scheduled Castes, the economy as a whole are available This makes it difcult to assess overall
Scheduled Tribes and poor women only once in ve years when the Na- employment trends in the country un-
have beneted from the NREGS, the tional Sample Survey Organisation der the UPA.
programme has only gone part of the (NSSO) conducts its ve-yearly survey
way in meeting job creation require- of the employment situation in the DECLINE IN FORMAL
ments during the UPA rule. country. EMPLOYMENT
This is of signicance because the The last two quinquennial surveys However, the gravity of the employ-
evidence appears to be that the num- of the employment situation relate to ment and livelihoods problem can be

enrolment forms at a job fair conducted by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal

Corporation in Hyderabad on February 18. Even though growth was steady at 8 to 9 per cent per annum from
2003-04 to 2007-08, it has not helped create employment fast enough.

F R O N T L I N E 9
APRIL 10, 2009

assessed by looking at the trends that The fallout of this was a very signif- remain true even today. Unfortunately
had become visible by 2004-05. icant increase in self-employment for the UPA, while it did not exploit the
Though there were signs of an acceler- among all categories of workers in In- opportunity it had when growth was
ation of employment growth between dia. The increase had been sharpest high, it is overseeing a collapse of em-
1999-2000 and 2004-05, the nature among rural women, where self-em- ployment and livelihoods as a result of
of employment being generated left ployment now accounts for nearly the crisis that has begun affecting In-
much to be desired. two-thirds of all jobs. But it was also dia over the last year.
To start with, as the National Com- remarkable for urban workers, both As has been discussed in Frontline
mission on Enterprises in the Unorga- men and women, among whom the before, even a woefully inadequate
nised Sector made clear, if organised self-employed constitute 45 and 48 per survey covering 2,581 units in eight
employment is taken to consist of all cent respectively, of all usual status sectors by the Labour Bureau, Shimla,
employment in units that fall under workers. estimated that total employment in
the formal sector denition, then such All told, therefore, around half of the sectors covered declined from 16.2
employment rose at an average rate of the workforce in India did not work for million during September 2008 to 15.7
3 per cent per annum from 54.1 million a direct employer. This was true not million during December 2008, im-
in 1999-2000 to 62.6 million in 2004- only in agriculture, but increasingly in plying a job loss of about half a million.
05. a wide range of non-agricultural activ- An update on that survey, which
However, if the denition is re- ities, especially services. The acceler- covered around 25 per cent of the orig-
stricted to organised workers in the ation in employment growth did not inal limited sample in six sectors, esti-
organised sector, then formal em- therefore reect any increase in the mated that in January 2009 the rate of
ployment in the organised sector had ability of the commodity-producing decline in employment was higher
fallen marginally from 33.7 million in sectors and the organised non-agricul- than the average monthly rate of de-
1999-2000 to 33.4 million in 2004- tural sectors in general to absorb work- cline during the previous quarter and
05. This compares with an average an- ers. that job losses in the non-export sec-
nual increase in total employment tors were now more severe than before.
from 361.7 million to 422.6 million
between those two dates. Around half of Even though these estimates are by
no means reliable or denitive, they
Secondly, there has been a shift in
the type of employment being generat- the workforce are indicative of the trends under way.
While these trends could be attributed
ed, with a signicant decline in wage
employment in general. While regular in India does to the global crisis, the immediate
political victim of these developments
employment had been declining as a
share of total usual status employment not work for a is likely to be the Congress.
The NDA, we should not forget,
for some time now (except for urban
women workers), wage employment direct was rejected because its India Shin-
ing slogan whitewashed the failure of
had continued to grow in share be-
cause employment on casual contracts employer. the government to reach the benets of
growth to the poor and concealed the
had been on the increase. But the increase in inequalities that had oc-
2004-05 survey revealed a fall in casu- Finally, the sharp increase in pro- curred under NDA rule. Growth under
al employment as a proportion of total ductivity implicit in the lack of corre- the UPA has been strong for a longer
employment. spondence between the rate of growth period of four full years. Yet, if employ-
For urban male workers, total of output and the rate of growth of ment growth and employment quality
wage employment was at the lowest employment in the organised manu- have not improved substantially, it too
that it has been in at least two decades, facturing sector was not accompanied can be held responsible for not reac-
driven by declines in both regular and by any increase in real wages of work- hing the benets of growth to the poor
casual paid work. ers. The net result has been a sharp rise and of permitting inequalities to wid-
For women, in both rural and ur- in the share of prots in value added en even further.
ban areas, the share of regular work and a corresponding decline in the The NREGS, which it reticently
had increased but that of casual em- share of wages in registered and inadequately implemented, may
ployment had fallen so sharply that the manufacturing. come in handy as an achievement to
aggregate share of wage employment tout, but may not be good enough to
has fallen. So there is clearly a real and JOB LOSSES neutralise the fallout of the larger
increasing difculty among the work- Even though these trends relate to the trends in employment and livelihoods.
ing population of nding paid jobs, period prior to 2004-05, there is rea- This electoral issue, therefore, may
whether they are in the form of regular son to believe that they had been oper- contribute to a weakening of the UPAs
or casual contracts. ational in the years that followed and hold and even to its ouster.

1 0 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009
Cover Story

A world of distress
Depression in agriculture and farmer suicides continue, thanks to the misguided
actions of Indian policymakers. B Y U T S A P A T N A I K

A concrete action plan is needed to revive
agriculture. It should include genuine debt relief
measures for producers, crop price stabilisation,

and income generation to revive demand.

AS the outstanding Marxist economist Paul Ba- geting mainly the unorganised sector sharp reduc-
ran had pointed out in The Political Economy of tion of Central and State government development
Growth, what is cooked in the kitchen is not decided expenditures, large cut in fertilizer subsidy, deval-
in the kitchen. Similarly, what happens to agricultu- uation of the rupee, unrestricted primary exports,
ral producers is decided outside agriculture by public and so on. For the rst time in 30 years, Indias per
policy. The ruling partys Jai Ho campaign before capita gross domestic product fell and the crude
the imminent general elections takes us back to the death rate rose in certain States. Financial sector
National Democratic Alliances (NDA) infamous reforms from 1994 redened the priority sector for
India Shining campaign of 2004 in the middle of bank lending and squeezed out the peasantry from
acute agrarian distress and farmer suicides. affordable bank credit, forcing them into the willing
What is the situation today after ve years of arms of usurious moneylenders who take Rs.3 to
United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule? Agrarian Rs.5 a month interest on Rs.100 lent in a year.
depression continues and farmer suicides are un- After a brief interregnum, the NDA government
abated not only in Maharashtra but in Chhattisgarh, from 1998 pursued the same deationary policies
Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, to which weaver with equal vigour and by prematurely removing
and textile worker suicides have now been added. quantitative restrictions on trade, exposed our pro-
Professor K. Nagarajs recent study of farmer suicid- ducers to the full fury of the global price declines that
es (Farmer Suicides in India: Magnitudes, Trends had started from the mid-1990s. Peasants who had
and Spatial Patterns) shows a higher incidence in borrowed to expand cash crops output expecting
States that produce export crops as well as certain prices to be maintained became quickly insolvent.
tribal population-predominant States. Only Kerala Farmer suicides started and they continue to this day
has seen a drastic drop in farmer suicides by 2008 after a whole decade has passed: they are only the tip
owing to swift measures taken by the Left Demo- of the iceberg, the most tragic expression of a vast
cratic Front government after coming to power in submerged world of distress. The share of both rural
May 2006, though the very recent dip in export crop development spending and infrastructure spending
prices is again raising the spectre of renewed fell drastically in the 1990s, the steepest rate of fall
distress. being the one during the Congress rule up to 1996.
The public memory is surely not so short that the The Central governments total development spend-
mephitic role played by Manmohan Singh as Fi- ing registered negative annual growth over the entire
nance Minister in the P.V. Narasimha Rao govern- 1990s after growing at a steady 6 per cent annually
ment in initiating the agricultural depression has during the 1970s and the 1980s under the previous
been forgotten. Subscribing to the economic dogmas Congress and alternative governments.
of international nancial institutions (the Interna-
tional Monetary Fund and the World Bank) advising PIOUS WISH-LIST
a cutback in state spending and a reduction of al- All this is known and history, it might be argued. In
ready meagre agricultural subsidies, from July 1991 a recent years development spending has risen again,
strongly contractionary, expenditure-deating set of so why harp on the past? The point is, rst, that a
policies was put in place by Manmohan Singh, tar- decade of relentless state attacks on farmers viability

F R O N T L I N E 1 1
APRIL 10, 2009

has had such deep and traumatic ef-

fects in raising unemployment, drasti- The RBI ended
cally lowering the output growth rate,
depressing mass incomes and hence the Rs.6,000
reducing the incentive to invest by the
peasantry, that only a well-thought- crore general
out and coordinated set of measures
can revive this sector, which supports line of credit
over three-fths of our population.
Second, the world recession has enjoyed by
unleashed a second round of income-
depressing factors on rural producers NABARD two
by contracting demand, both internal
and external, and leading to a fresh years ago.
round of price declines, problems
which are not being addressed at all. initial grain output as 198.4 million
In the present situation, the extant tonnes in 2004-05, which happened to
pontications of the experts on agri- be a remarkably low output year (the
cultural revival are grossly inadequate previous years output was 213 million
and express a pious wish-list rather tonnes), and then comparing this very
than a concrete action plan. Such a low output with a peak output of 230
plan has to include genuine debt relief million tonnes in 2007-08. Base year
measures for producers including the manipulation and taking trough to
state taking over farmers debt to pri- peak output to dress up the growth
vate moneylenders, crop valorisation, rate is an old ploy although it fools
crop price stabilisation through revival nobody; prestigious bodies like the
of the commodity boards and their Planning Commission should not
purchase function, and income gener- stoop to such cheap tricks. The country
ation to revive demand. Our policy- last saw a peak output of 199.4 million
makers still refuse to face up to the fact tonnes back in 1996-97 and it is this
that it is their misguided actions alone which should be taken for comparison
that have created the present crisis. with the 2007-08 peak output. The
How committed the UPA govern- peak-to-peak growth rate from 1996-
ment has been to reversing agrarian 97 to 2007-08 works out to 1.3 per cent
distress can be judged from the fact per annum, well below the population
that the Reserve Bank of India ended growth rate of 1.8 per cent. Per capita
Rs.6,000 crore general line of credit output is falling faster than ever
enjoyed by the National Bank for Agri- before. as they please. They have been para-
culture and Rural Development (NA- In such a situation of output shor- noid about China and India with their
BARD) two years ago. This country is tage, food price ination should have vast populations using up more of the
sitting on a mountain of reserves, started long ago if demand had been worlds scarce resources as their per
which are being used by the RBI to maintained, but in fact the ination capita income rises. They have deliber-
support the United States balance of rate was at a historic low with the Con- ately advised income-deating poli-
payments, while it refuses to support sumer Price Index for Agricultural La- cies for India and other developing
rural development banking in this bour rising only 11 per cent over the countries, which depress mass in-
country even to the most meagre ex- ve years 1999-2000 to 2004-05. comes and purchasing power, thus re-
tent. What explains this? A severe squeeze ducing the rate of domestic absorption
On the supply side, primary export on aggregate demand of the mass of of even basic foodgrains to ease the
thrust to ll supermarket shelves in the population (at least 60 per cent of diversion of land to export crops for
Northern countries has shifted 8 mil- the total) has been engineered through lling up supermarket shelves in the
lion hectares away from foodgrains, the measures of income deation. global North. Unfortunately, Chinas
resulting in a drastic drop in per capita Advanced countries with a history market-oriented reforms have had the
grain output. The Planning Commis- of centuries of colonial exploitation same effect of displacing grain with
sion economists are talking about and parasitism have developed the bad cotton and commercial crops.
above 4 per cent growth rate during habit of believing that other peoples The success of these income-de-
the period of UPA rule by taking the resources can be appropriated by them ating policies appears to be not

1 2 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

in per capita total grain demand of the

minority which is getting richer and
demanding more animal products,
that is, more feed grains, is being more
than cancelled out by an enforced fall
in per capita grain demand of the ma-
jority which is stagnating or getting
absolutely poorer. The result is overall
decline, increase in mass hunger. Stag-
nating income too will produce falling
food intake when market pricing for
health, education, and so on raises
these costs forcing sacrice of food
What Bush, Krugman and indeed
many of our home-grown economists
suffer from theoretically is the fallacy
of composition (in which the beha-
viour of the part, the rich minority, is
assumed to be the same as the beha-
viour of the whole, the entire popula-
tion). Market-oriented reforms
worsen income distribution while they
are assuming unchanged income dis-
tribution. The National Sample Survey
data on consumption show that, be-
tween 1993-94 and 2004-05, over 60
per cent of Indias rural population has
seen a substantial absolute decline in
the intake of both cereals and animal
products such as milk, eggs and meat,
while the top 10 per cent registered a

sharp rise in animal product intake

though not in cereal intake. The aver-
age decline in nutrition is the result of
these divergent trends and we see not
only falling per capita calorie intake
P OVE R TY D R O V E T H I S farmers family near Bangalore to commit suicide, in but also falling per capita protein in-
2002. Financial sector reforms from 1994 redened the priority sector for take. The Army has been obliged to
bank lending and squeezed out the peasantry from affordable bank credit, lower its physical standards for male
forcing them into the willing arms of usurious moneylenders. Farmer recruits in some centres owing to the
suicides started in the late 1990s and continue to this day after a whole shortage of candidates satisfying the
decade has passed. previous standards. While woman and
child malnutrition is much talked
known to former U.S. President Ge- tual position as well as theoretical mis- about, the reality is that the entire pop-
orge Bush and economist Paul conception. The factual position is that ulation save the very top groups is af-
Krugman, who have been quick to far from a rise, there has been a sharp fected. The percentage of persons
blame India and China for the 2007- decline not only in per capita output, unable to obtain a daily energy intake
08 global price rise citing their high but also in per capita total (food plus of even 2,200 calories rose from 58.5
rate of per capita income growth which feed grains) demand over the period of per cent in 1993-94 to 69.5 per cent by
they say must be raising grain demand market-driven economic reforms in 2004-05 and the position now would
per head both for direct consumption both countries, namely, the last 15 be worse.
and for use as feed to convert into ani- years. The income of the minority in-
mal products. They do not have the deed has been rising fast but, at the THE KERALA MODEL
slightest idea of what has been going same time, the income of the majority What are the measures which should
on owing to their ignorance of the fac- has been falling or stagnating. The rise be taken by the new government which

F R O N T L I N E 1 3
APRIL 10, 2009

which are not within the purview of the

States. First, the indiscriminate sign-
ing of free trade agreements without
any consideration for their adverse im-
pact on our producers has to stop, and
tariffs have to be raised for sensitive
products and quantitative restrictions
imposed when necessary.
Second, the purchase function of
the Commodity Boards (such as Spices
Board, Tea Board, Coffee Board) were
terminated years ago and they exist
only in name. Effective revival of mar-
ket intervention by Commodity
Boards to purchase a substantial part
of output put on sale at minimum sup-
port prices is essential for stabilising
price to the grower without which
there can be no revival of protability
or investment.
Revival of mass demand is needed
with a big thrust on development
spending and on employment guaran-
tee, without which once more food
stocks will build up in godowns instead
of meeting the needs of the hungry as

in 2002, and a rising share of food

subsidy will go uselessly in holding
The Land and Livestock Survey of
and packed at a spices sales outlet in Kochi,
2002-03, compared with 1999, shows
Kerala. Effective revival of market intervention by bodies such as the Spices
an alarming loss of livestock with over
Board to purchase a substantial part of output put on sale at minimum
nine-tenths of all farmers and an
support prices is essential for stabilising the prices paid to the grower.
alarming rise in the proportion of zero
will assume ofce two months from the Central government to raise pro- or nil operational holdings, from 19.8
now to reverse these alarming trends? curement price of wheat. Suicides in per cent to 31.2 per cent at the all-India
Much will depend on the political paddy-growing areas stopped and level, while for States like Andhra Pra-
complexion of the government and its paddy acreage has started slowly reco- desh and Kerala the proportionate in-
commitment to improving welfare. vering. crease is even more than this average.
The measures taken to counter agrar- The National Rural Employment Many of our progressive intellec-
ian distress by the government of Ker- Guarantee Scheme was implemented tuals writing on land holdings are so
ala after assuming ofce in May 2006 with vigour in the affected districts petried that they refuse to mention
can serve as a model in many respects. with strictly equal pay for men and the facts of these surveys and produce
First, it speedily formulated The women, and has helped to restore de- only a single cryptic sentence in their
Kerala Debt Relief Commission Act, mand. The recent commodity price de- papers saying the two gures are not
2006, which was notied on January clines as the global recession has taken comparable. Non-comparability if it
18, 2007. Under this Act, applications hold will again affect farmers badly, does exist, does not preclude the sit-
for relief were invited from farmers and to prevent fresh distress, budge- uation being even worse than the data
unable to repay debt including from tary allocation to the extent of Rs.10 indicate. Facts do not go away if one
private moneylenders. This immedi- crore, to be raised if necessary, has buries ones head in the sand, and a
ately put a stop to harassment of in- been made last month for a Commod- much more mature intellectual stance
debted farmers and the suicide rate ity Price Safety Net which will meet the of facing unpalatable facts boldly is
dropped sharply. difference between falling actual price needed for formulating practical mea-
The procurement price of paddy to the farmer and a living price. sures to reverse the trend of asset loss
was substantially raised a whole year There are many measures which a and virtually unabated distress which
before runaway global price rise forced Central government can take and are emerging from the data.

1 4 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009
Cover Story

The price burden

Overall ination has slowed down, but food prices continue to increase.

This will affect the poor, for whom food accounts for I N FLA TI ON

more than half of total household expenditure.

Food prices are politically sensitive: elections have
supposedly been won or lost over the price of onions.
PRICE movements are fundamentally about in- as the input costs of cultivation or of other goods that
come distribution. When prices of certain commod- farmers have to buy, it affects the real incomes of
ities go up faster than those of others, it implies farmers. Similar is the case of non-agricultural petty
reduced real incomes for those who sell the latter. producers, who can also be considered as self-em-
The most obvious direct effect is of course on real ployed workers.
wages because when the price of labour, or money That is why prices are also political, or rather,
wages, does not keep pace with the items that form why ination can be such a hot political issue espe-
the consumption basket of workers, it implies re- cially before elections. The general perception is that
duced real wages of workers. high ination is unpopular, for the obvious reason
But other categories of workers are also affected: that it cuts into the real income of most people.
when agricultural crop prices do not go up as much Therefore, in the middle of last year when the in-


jute at Jonnavalasa village, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. The prices of bres

have barely increased. But oilseed prices have fallen by more than 5 per cent. This immediately affects
all the producers of cash crops, who get the same price or less for their products even as they pay
signicantly more for food.

F R O N T L I N E 1 5
APRIL 10, 2009

crease in prices had become an issue of

widespread concern, it essentially re-
ected the concern that the issue was
impacting on the real incomes of most
ordinary people.
The recent decline in ination
rates has led many to believe that this
is no longer a concern. But, in terms of
political impact, what needs to be exa-
mined is the extent to which ination
of the past few years has affected real
incomes. In other words, do people feel
better off or worse off than they did ve
years ago when the UPA government
came to power?
It is important in this regard to be
aware of the difference between in-
ation and price levels. Ination refers
to the change in prices, and any posi-
tive rate of ination, however low, in- most workers in urban or rural areas fall even faster. And deation, if it is
dicates that prices are rising. So even if have increased by that much in this associated with declining economic
the ination rate is coming down, it period, although we will have to wait activity and employment, can be really
does not mean prices are coming for large sample survey data to check bad news.
down, it only means that prices are on this. That is why the news, on March 19,
increasing at a slower rate than before. Certainly, the large sample survey that the wholesale price index (WPI)
This is a mistake commonly made by data of the past suggested little change for all commodities had barely in-
media commentators, who confuse a in nominal wage and self-employed in- creased on an annual basis, going up at
decline in inflation rates with a decline comes between 1999-2000 and 2004- the historically low rate of 0.44 per
in prices. If prices themselves actually 05, especially in the informal sector. It cent, gave rise to mixed reactions.
come down, then that is deation. is likely that this trend has continued Some welcomed it, on the grounds that
Why does this matter? Because into the past ve years as well. Micro it reected an easing of the inationary
even if the ination rate slows down or case studies suggest that nominal re- pressures that seemed so marked just a
comes down to zero, it simply means muneration for a signicant propor- few months ago. Others (notably the
that the price level stays at the level it tion of self-employed workers such as Chairman of the Prime Ministers Eco-
had reached, which may be felt to be a home-based workers has even de- nomic Advisory Council) dismissed
very high level by those whose nominal clined in recent times, suggesting that the lower ination rate as nothing but
incomes have not increased. So if pric- real incomes have plummeted quite a base effect of the earlier high prices,
es had risen very dramatically last year, dramatically. as the economy stabilises at those price
but have now slowed down, this may Second, while the consumer price levels. Others were actually alarmed at
still be experienced as very high price index for industrial workers was in- this possible sign that the economy is
levels by those whose wages and sala- creasing more rapidly until October entering a deationary phase, in which
ries have not increased much over the 2006, the index for agricultural la- output and employment may even
whole period. bourers too has been moving up more shrink.
The accompanying chart shows rapidly thereafter. The main reason is Yet hardly any commentators
how consumer prices the price of the probably the faster increase in the dwelt on the income distribution as-
basket of goods estimated to be con- price of food, since the food index even pect of the ination, which is arguably
sumed by different groups of workers - for industrial workers has moved up the most signicant consequence, at
have moved since April 2004, just be- more rapidly since October 2006. least politically. To understand the
fore the last general election. Some But higher ination need not al- distributive implications, the overall
points of note emerge from this chart. ways be the greater problem in fact, ination rate has to be unpackaged
First, overall ination has been quite sometimes the opposite can be true. into its component parts, to under-
high for both sets of workers over this This is not always and inevitably the stand which sectors and which cate-
period, with consumer prices increas- case it depends on what is happening gories of producers and consumers are
ing by around 40 per cent over this to nominal incomes as well. So even affected in different ways.
ve-year period. It is extremely un- falling ination can be of concern, if An examination of the disaggre-
likely that nominal wage incomes for the nominal incomes of enough people gated changes in the latest WPI num-

1 6 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

bers throws up some surprising, even ta. A remarkable feature is how

alarming, results. The accompanying non-food primary product prices have
table provides information on year- moved. The prices of bres mainly
on-year percentage changes (or an- cotton, jute and silk have barely in-
nual ination rates) for different cate- creased at all.
gories of goods. Oilseed prices have fallen by more
While overall ination has indeed than 5 per cent. This immediately af-
slowed down to almost no change in fects all the producers of cash crops,
the aggregate price level, food prices who will be getting the same or less for
have continued to increase. Foodgrain their products even as they pay signif-
prices have gone up the most by more icantly more for food. They are also
than 10 per cent and this cannot be paying more for fertilizer and pesti-
blamed on higher procurement prices cides, whose prices have increased by
alone, since the prices of pulses, which more than 5 per cent.

are not covered by public procure- Meanwhile, several manufactured
ment, have also gone up just as much. goods have also declined in price over
the past year. Some of the sharpest
INCREASING FOOD PRICES A M I GRA N T LA B O UR E R in New price declines have occurred in iron
The prices of fruits and vegetables and Delhi. Prices of foodgrains and and steel (a decline of nearly 17 per
eggs, sh and meat have also in- pulses have gone up by about 10 per cent) and non-ferrous metals (a de-
creased, even if not by as much as for cent, particularly affecting the poor. cline of nearly 11 per cent). This has
foodgrains. The only food category for happened mostly in the very recent
which prices have fallen is edible oils, period, as the impact of the global re-
which reects the decline in oilseed cession fed into trade prices. Indeed,
prices as world prices have crashed. the sheer rapidity and extent of the
Other food articles prices have in- price changes for traded goods is
creased by more than one-fth in this remarkable.
one year. For example, the price of bres
So all householders who wonder rose by 12.1 per cent between March 8,
how ination could be falling when 2008, and January 10, 2009, and then
they keep facing higher prices when plummeted by 9.3 per cent in just the
they go to the market are right in one past two months. While some of this
important respect food prices are in- can be explained by seasonality (such
deed still rising, despite the stability of as the cotton harvest that comes
the overall price level. And this will around December-January) the de-
obviously affect household budgets, cline this year is much sharper than in
especially among the poor for whom previous years and reects interna-
food still accounts for more than half tional prices as well. Overall, the price
of total household expenditure. It is index of manufactured goods in-
worth remembering that food prices creased slightly by 2 per cent until Ja-
have always been politically sensitive: nuary 10, and subsequently fell by 0.65
there are elections that are supposed to per cent to March 7, 2009.
have been won or lost over the price of What does all this add up to? What
onions. it suggests a worrying combination of
Another major item of essential falling prices faced by agriculturalists
consumption has also increased in who produce cash crops as well as pet-
price: that of drugs and medicines has ty producers and others who produce
gone up by 4.5 per cent, which ob- manufactured goods, even as the pric-
viously impacts upon the entire pop- es of essential items like food and med-
ulation, but especially the bottom half icines continue to rise. These groups
of the population which may nd it and their families alone account for
extremely difcult, if not impossible, the majority of the population in the
to meet such expenditures in times of country. The latest gures ought to
stringency. worry the government that is still in
But these are not the only disturb- power, for this combination could
ing thing about the disaggregated da- amount to electoral dynamite.

F R O N T L I N E 1 7
Cover Story APRIL 10, 2009

Lessons in apathy
The neglect of the public school system and the encouragement of private
schools characterise the UPAs education policy. B Y R . R A M A K U M A R

E D UC A T I O N Every year after 2004, public spending on

education was signicantly lower than required.
In 2007-08, the total public spending was only

Rs.1.4 lakh crore: a decit of 36 per cent.

PRIMARY education in India has the history of signicant shift of policy, there was the hope that a
being an object of neglect by the Indian state through sincere effort to address some of the concerns in
the 60 years of Independence. First, the state has education would begin under the UPA. The Com-
never regarded the provision of education to chil- mon Minimum Programme of the UPA pledged to
dren as a legal duty, as most modern nations have. In raise public spending in education to at least 6 per
other words, the need for a compulsory education cent of the GDP. In part, this increase was to be
law that would universalise education was never nanced through an education cess on Central taxes.
seriously considered. India is one of the few modern A legislation that ensured right to education as a
nations that has not yet banned all forms of child fundamental right was also promised. The midday
labour. Secondly, while most modern nations have meal scheme was to be made a national scheme for
expanded their educational systems through signif- all primary and secondary schools.
icant public spending, public nancing of education
in India has always been inadequate. The share of PUBLIC FINANCING OF EDUCATION
expenditure on education has only rarely exceeded 3 The total public spending on education has been
per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in falling sharply as a share of GDP from 1999-2000
India, while the international average is close to 5 per onwards (see chart). In 1999-2000, India spent 3.3
cent. Thirdly, while in many modern nations educa- per cent of its GDP on education. When the UPA
tional expansion has gone hand in hand with sub- government took over in 2004, educational spend-
stantive social transformation, large parts of India ing stood at 3 per cent of the GDP. After 2004, this
are yet to undergo such transformation. Class, caste share actually fell for the rst three years and then
and gender discriminations have persisted on a mass rose to settle at 3 per cent in 2007-08 (the last year
scale in Indian society, fostering corresponding dif- for which revised Budget gures are available). Ten-
ferentials in educational achievements. tative Budget estimates of expenditure and the GDP
In 2003-04, according to ofcial estimates, show a possible fall of public spending in 2009-10 to
about 52 per cent of children were out of school at the below 3 per cent. Clearly, in spite of introducing an
elementary education level. The corresponding educational cess, the UPA government was unable to
share was higher at about 59 per cent for Dalits and prevent the fall in total public spending on education
70 per cent for Adivasis. Even among children who after 2004.
enrolled, dropout rates were large; in 2003-04, the The increase in public expenditure on education
average dropout rate at the elementary level was was to be achieved in a phased manner. Economists
about 52 per cent. In the age group of 5-14 years, C.P. Chandrasekhar and Jayati Ghosh have prepared
there were about 13 million child workers as per a set of estimates on the annual increase in public
Census 2001. educational spending that is required to gradually
The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) govern- achieve the target of 6 per cent of the GDP by 2009-
ment assumed power in 2004, riding on a historic 10 (Table 1). As per their estimates, the actual expen-
verdict of the people against the neoliberal policies of diture on education in 2007-08 should have been Rs.
its predecessor. While there were no illusions of any 2.2 lakh crore, equivalent to a public spending to

1 8 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

TH E E DUC A T I O N A L I N F R A S T RU C T U RE is poorly developed: in 2007-08, as many as 27 per cent of schools did not
have pucca buildings, 13 per cent did not have drinking water facilities, and 50 per cent did not have separate toilets
for girls. Here, a government high school at Dhoolpet in Hyderabad.
GDP ratio of 5.5 per cent. As this
amount was to be spent by the Centre
and States together, a part of this
amount should have been devolved to
States in some tied fashion. However,
for every year after 2004, the actual
public spending on education was sig-
nicantly lower than the required
amount. In 2007-08, the total public
spending on education in India was
only Rs.1.4 lakh crore: a decit of 36
per cent.
It may be argued that the Central
governments spending on education
has risen as a share of the GDP. While
that may be true, the inability of the
UPA government to ensure a rise in
States spending on education cannot
be sidestepped. In fact, in many ways,
the UPA government has continued to
tie the hands of States in the sphere of

F R O N T L I N E 1 9
APRIL 10, 2009

spending choices. One of the most im- tional amendment. The Bill placed the have pucca buildings, 13 per cent did
portant barriers to the States spend- onus of ensuring the childs presence not have drinking water facility, and
ing on the social sector is the Fiscal in school on the parents while absolv- 50 per cent did not have a separate
Responsibility and Budget Manage- ing the state of any responsibility in girls toilet. Studies show that even
ment Act. The Act mandates all States either ensuring provision or enforcing while these facilities are available,
to reduce their revenue decit to zero, the law. Also, while a 2005 draft of the their quality remains poor.
and scal decit to 3 per cent, by Bill contained a provision to reserve 25 In a development that undermines
around 2010. In this situation, States per cent of seats in private schools to the right to free primary education,
have shied away from spending and poor children, the provision was delet- there has been a growth of private
have preferred to park surplus funds in ed from the 2006 Model Bill. Given its schools; the share of government
the intermediate treasury bills of the present form, there is little chance of schools among all schools providing
Reserve Bank of India. As on March 6 the Bill addressing the issues of enrol- elementary education declined from
2009, States had an investment out- ment and drop-out in any substantive 86.3 per cent in 2003 to 81.2 in 2007.
standing of a whopping Rs.96,182 manner. The neglect of the public school system
crore in these treasury bills. The com- and the encouragement of the private
plicity of the UPA government in en- EDUCATIONAL BACKWARDNESS school system characterise the neolib-
gendering this situation cannot be Contrary to the claims of a section of eral ideological orientation of the
missed. In some of the agship civil society activists and non-govern- UPAs educational policy.
schemes of the Central government, mental organisations, backwardness Reecting the squeeze on nances,
such as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in education continues to be acute in the number of single-teacher schools
(SSA), there was an absolute fall in India (Table 2). Data compiled by the has risen from 2 per cent in 2002-03 to
expenditure after 2007. The Budget National University of Educational 10 per cent in 2007-08. Another out-
outlay for the SSA, which was Planning and Administration (NUE- come of the nancial squeeze is that
Rs.12,020 crore in 2007-08 (Revised PA) show that the share of girls and almost all the new appointments in
Estimate), fell to Rs.11,940 crore in Dalits enrolment in total primary en- primary schools are of a short-term
2008-09 (Revised Estimate) and rolment has remained largely un- contract nature; these grossly under-
Rs.11,934 crore in 2009-10 (Budget changed between 2002-03 and paid teachers are known by different
Estimate). Further, the share of States 2007-08. The state of educational in- names: para-teachers, shiksha-mitras,
contribution to the SSA has been frastructure is poorly developed: in contract teachers, and so on. The qual-
raised, without corresponding in- 2007-08, 27 per cent of schools did not ity of teaching has been the casualty
creases in total devolution to States. under this cost-cutting policy.
In sum, the task of universalisation
RIGHT TO EDUCATION The number of of education remains as big a challenge
The 86th constitutional amendment in 2009 as it was in 2004. Experience
had established the right to education single-teacher shows that the success in completing
in India as a fundamental right. The this task is contingent on the degree to
UPA government delayed the tabling schools rose which the problem is progressively
of the law that operationalise this politicised. To be certain, the UPA go-
amendment in Parliament for about from 2 per cent vernment has proved to be a major
two years. A Draft Model Bill was cir- failure in this regard.
culated in 2006. There was strong crit- in 2002-03 to R. Ramakumar is Assistant Professor,
icism that the provisions of the Bill School of Social Sciences, Tata
undermined the spirit of the constitu- 10 in 2007-08. Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

2 0 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009
Cover Story

Unhealthy trend
The present government and the ones before it have neglected the health sector,
as the National Family Health Surveys show. B Y R . R A M A C H A N D R A N & T . K . R A J A L A K S H M I

Access to quality health care is a basic human right. P UB LI C HE ALTH

Public health must be on the top of the agenda of

political parties, which, unfortunately, has not been

the case in the 60 years of Independence.
WHAT is the state of the nations health? The GDP to around 2-3 per cent;
ndings of the third National Family Health Survey While focussing on primary health care in a sub-
(NFHS-3), a household survey carried out during stantial manner, all efforts shall be made to provide
2005-06, should put the political class to shame. The health insurance to all rural families;
country may be witnessing an 8-9 per cent economic In order to tackle all communicable diseases, the
growth and the government may think that India is a government would increase investment in health
world power in the making, but these ndings tell services;
the real story of where all that growth is headed. The government would make all life-saving
When the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) drugs affordable to all;
came to power in 2004, some of the health-related The government would ensure that all sections of
declarations it made as part of the National Common the population can afford and avail themselves of
Minimum Programme (NCMP) are as follows: health services.
The government would increase public expendi- In the context of these promises, how does the
ture on health services from around 1 per cent of national health prole look?

F R O N T L I N E 2 1
APRIL 10, 2009

The infant mortality rate (IMR), The UIP suffered a major blow available only to a third of the children
the number per 1,000 children before during 2008-09 because of the highly and the supplementary food scheme
one year of age, is 57, which means misplaced decision to shut down the reaches only 26 per cent. As a result,
over one in 18 infants die before they three vaccine-producing public sector nearly half the children under the age
are one year old. While the gure is a undertakings (PSUs) on grounds of of ve are stunted, which reects their
marginal improvement over the IMR non-compliance with the World childhood nutritional status. Nearly
of 68 of NFHS-2 (1998-99) about 1 in Health Organisation (WHO) norms one-fth are underweight for their
14 this is unacceptably high. on good manufacturing practice height, an indicator of both chronic
The same is true for children under (GMP). With the government unable and acute undernutrition. These g-
ve, wherein the child mortality rate to ensure adequate supplies from the ures are nearly double the levels of
(CMR) is 74 (one in 13) as compared to private sector at affordable prices, vac- undernutrition even in sub-Saharan
92 of NFHS-2. This is a far cry from the cine shortage has worsened. While Africa.
Millennium Development Goal these PSUs never had any problem Undernutrition extends to adults
(MDG) of a CMR of 42 by 2015. More with their vaccine quality, there have as well (Figure 3). Over half the wom-
tellingly, this is equal to the average of been recent reports of vaccine from en and nearly one-fourth of the men
all the Least Developed Countries GMP-qualied private sector compa- are anaemic. This is a direct conse-
(LDC), 2.5 times that of China and nies failing in quality checks (story on quence of the continued lack of bal-
eight to 10 times higher than that of page 114). anced nutrition from childhood into
developed countries. Clearly, the IMR adulthood, especially among women.
target of 30 by 2010 set by the 2002 CHILDRENS HEALTH Women are the worst hit in terms
National Health Policy (NHP-2002) India is fast earning the dubious dis- of access to health services. According
is unlikely to be achieved. tinction of being the hunger capital of to NFHS-3 data, only 17.3 per cent of
the world. The nutritional status of women have ever received any service
IMMUNISATION PROGRAMME children has not improved over the from a health care worker. Only 17.9
What is particularly disquieting about past ve years, which means the In- per cent of the public health centres
these gures is that much of these tegrated Child Development Services (PHCs) have a woman doctor. As a
deaths are preventable through child- (ICDS) aimed at promoting child direct consequence, 56.2 per cent of
hood immunisation. But the reach of health and nutrition is not working. women (aged 15-49) are anaemic,
the countrys Universal Immunisation The outreach and delivery of ICDS which actually represents an increase
Programme (UIP) continues to re- is extremely poor. As per NFHS-3 da- from the NFHS-2 data of 51.8 per cent.
main low, which is the result of a weak ta, the services of an anganwadi are The percentage of pregnant women
public health care system. The who are anaemic has also increased
NFHS-3 data show no signicant im- from 49.7 per cent to 57.9 per cent.
provement in immunisation coverage Around 52 per cent of childbirths
between 1998-99 and 2005-06 (Fig- take place in the absence of a qualied
ures 1 and 2): 42 per cent coverage in health worker. This, coupled with
NFHS-2 and 44 per cent now. The womens intrinsic poor health and
coverage has actually worsened in poor nutritional status, causes the
Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharash- death of over 120,000 mothers follow-
tra, Punjab and Tamil Nadu. The ob- ing childbirth. The maternal mortality
jective of introducing the pulse polio rate (MMR), the number of women
programme (PPP) over and above the dying of childbirth-related problems
routine immunisation programme per 100,000 deliveries, is a high 300,
was to make India polio-free. That according to NFHS-3, still way beyond
goal has not been achieved because the the NHP-2002 target of 100 by 2010.
PPP is being done at the cost of routine
immunisation, in terms of deployed COMMUNICABLE DISEASES
resources. The budgetary allocation The burden of disease on the popula-
for routine immunisation has been tion continues to be high and takes a
roughly a third of that for the PPP. The heavy toll of life. Recent years have
number of Acute Flaccid Paralysis witnessed a resurgence of various
(AFP) cases, an indicator of the success communicable diseases such as tuber-
of polio vaccination, which prevents culosis (TB), malaria, chikungunya,
limb paralysis in children, has actually dengue, kala-azar, encephalitis and
increased enormously, from 3,047 in leptospirosis.
1997 to 31,973 in 2006. India bears one-fth of the worlds

2 2 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

to clean drinking water.

Notwithstanding the controversy
in the number of Human Immunodef-
iciency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Im-
mune Deciency Syndrome (AIDS)
cases and the prevalence rate of in-
fection in the country, and the recent
downward revision of estimates for
these, they are still signicant. With
the latest estimate of 25-31 lakh cases
(depending upon the study and the
agency), India has the third largest
number, after South Africa and Nige-
ria. This constitutes a serious threat
and a major challenge for the health
care system in the country. Though
treatment and access to health care
facilities for the disease have improved
in recent years, these need to improve
Having said that, one should bear
in mind that the allocation for HIV/
AIDS is skewed greatly in its favour
because of foreign funding for the Na-
tional AIDS Control Programme
(NACP), from agencies such as the
Melinda Gates Foundation. The allo-
cation for the NACP is roughly of the
same magnitude as the combined allo-
burden of TB. About 3.7 lakh people hold remedy of Oral Rehydration So- cation for the control of TB, leprosy,
die of TB in India every year, the high- lution (ORS). According to NFHS-3, trachoma, blindness and iodine-de-
est in the world, and this gure is only only one-third of urban diarrhoeal cas- ciency disorder. The neglect of the rou-
likely to go up with increasing evi- es get ORS, while less than a fourth of tine immunisation programme for
dence of the widespread prevalence of rural cases get it (Figure 6). The sit- women and children, in terms of inad-
multi drug-resistant TB (Figure 4). uation, according to NFHS-3, has ac- equate nance, manpower and cold-
Since NFHS-2, the reported cases of tually worsened; only 29 per cent of chains and other infrastructure, only
TB have declined by 18 per cent, but households have access to improved compounds the problem of tackling
the level of medically treated cases of toilet facilities. Besides, about 200 communicable diseases.
TB has not changed (Figure 5). million people still do not have access
The number of malaria cases re- HEALTH INFRASTRUCTURE
mains at around two million annually, In terms of the growth of infrastruc-
but the disturbing aspect is the in- ture in the public health sector in rural
creasing trend of drug-resistant falci- areas, even as per 2001 population
parum malaria (nearly half the cases), norms, there is a shortfall of 21,983
which causes the highly fatal cerebral subcentres, 4,436 PHCs and 3,332
malaria. Poor surveillance and the lack community health centres (CHCs).
of access to hygiene, sanitation and Though the increase in the number of
drinking water among the poor, cou- subcentres from the 9th Plan period to
pled with a weakening public health the 10th Plan period (6 per cent) has
system, have contributed to this. been signicantly higher than that
About six lakh children die of diar- from the 8th Plan period to the 9th
rhoea, a disease that is easily preven- Plan period (0.8 per cent), this is still
table by providing access to potable insufcient given the population
water and sanitation. Infected chil- growth.
dren can be prevented from dying if The PHCs have actually registered
they have access to the simple house- a 2 per cent drop between the 9th and

F R O N T L I N E 2 3
APRIL 10, 2009

10th Plan periods. There is a substan-

tial increase only in the number of
CHCs, but these suffer from staff and
resource shortages.
As many as 807 PHCs have no doc-
tor, 1,188 PHCs and 1,647 subcentres
function without electricity or without
regular water supply. According to the
Rural Health Statistics of the Ministry
of Health and Family Welfare
(MoH&FW), 50 per cent of subcen-
tres, 24 per cent of PHCs and 16 per
cent of CHCs function out of rented or
temporary premises.
Availability of skilled personnel

even for standard medical care is woe-
fully inadequate in the public health
system. More than one-fth of the
sanctioned posts for doctors are va-
cant, while over 40 per cent of the
PHCs have no laboratory technicians P O LI O D RO P S B E I N G administered in a remote village in Salem district in
and nearly one-fth have no pharma- Tamil Nadu as part of the pulse polio campaign in February. The goal of
cists. This is a direct fallout of the na- making India polio-free has not been achieved because the pulse polio
ture of our medical educational programme is being implemented at the cost of the routine immunisation
system, which is largely based on the programme.
Western model, is urban-centric and
does not produce the right kind of MoH&FW, released in November and not as community health workers,
health workers. Only 20 per cent of the 2008, show that much of the NRHMs which is what is envisaged under the
medical professionals are available for focus has been to increase institutional NRHM.
70 per cent of the countrys popula- deliveries despite most of the States Nearly 75 per cent of the ASHAs
tion, in rural India. having poor infrastructure. For in- spoken to in the survey said they had
The nature of hierarchical health stance, in Karnataka, institutional de- received no money. In fact, according
governance, administratively, nan- liveries increased from 60 per cent in to the CRM report, payments for the
cially and technically, also contributes 2005 to 79 per cent in 2008-09, while ASHAs and the Janani Suraksha Yoja-
to the poor state of the public health the First Referral Units, the PHCs and na (JSY) scheme were poor. It added
sector. Further, public health and the CHCs remained underutilised. It that introducing incentives for the JSY
sanitation, hospitals and dispensaries also revealed that the PHCs and the and sterilisation compensation had
are State subjects. Health should be CHCs continued to lack basic facilities deleterious effects.
brought under the Concurrent List in and faced a shortage of technicians The JSA-PRHW survey concluded
the Constitution, which gives a role to and doctors. that no genuine steps had been taken
both the Centre and the States. In 2007-08, the Jan Swasthya Ab- to recruit doctors at all levels of the
hiyaan (JSA) and the Peoples Rural public health services, retain them and
RURAL HEALTH MISSION Health Watch (PRHW), citizens fora make the health system functional;
The National Rural Health Mission that raise health issues, conducted a that despite a massive shortage of in-
(NRHM), which is a agship pro- survey in the high-focus States of Uttar frastructure, no measures had been
gramme of the UPA government, has Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattis- taken to address the issue. The incen-
certainly brought in some reforms, but garh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Bihar and tives under the JSY needed to be re-
they are not enough. Also, there are Rajasthan to analyse the impact of the viewed as they were leading to conict
several shortcomings in the NRHM, as NRHM on rural health care. and corruption between auxiliary
discussed below. The survey found that only mar- nurse midwives (ANMs), ASHAs, dais
The NRHM was launched in April ried women were selected to serve as and anganwadi workers.
2005 with the objective of providing accredited social health activists All of the above are pointers to in-
universal access to equitable, afforda- (ASHAs), the lynchpin of the NRHM. adequacies in the public health care
ble and quality health care. However, The ASHAs were found to be trained system, in terms of resources deployed
the ndings of the second Common mainly for reproductive and child and hence in its outreach and
Review Mission (CRM) of the health services (read family planning) coverage.

2 4 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

India has the most privatised Over the years, with the increase in ture, the spending on health has
health care system in the world. Ac- the number of private medical colleg- dropped to 2.9 per cent from 3.4 per
cording to NFHS-3, for 70 per cent of es, the MCIs powers have grown cent.
urban households and 63 per cent of greatly. In November 2002, the Delhi Public health expenditure in India
rural households the unregulated pri- High Court ordered its president, Ke- as a proportion of total health expendi-
vate sector is the chief source of health tan Desai, to step down on various ture is only 16 per cent, according to
care. Only 5 per cent have any kind of charges, including corruption. But, de- the JSA. This is less than that in Ethio-
insurance cover for at least one mem- spite the courts observations, the Cen- pia (36 per cent), Burkina Faso (31 per
ber of the household. As a result, peo- tre has done nothing to correct the cent), Nigeria (28 per cent) and Pakis-
ple bear over 80 per cent of medical irregularities within the MCI. Recent- tan (23 per cent). In 1974, around 80
expenses through out-of-pocket ex- ly, it turned a blind eye to Ketan De- per cent of hospital units and 80 per
penses, pushing the already poor to sais re-election as the MCIs president. cent of hospital beds were in the public
below-poverty-line status. In an environment of private-sec- sector. Post-liberalisation, in the
According to the 2004 data of the tor-dominated health care, irrational 1990s, the trend reversed and only 38
National Sample Survey Organisation treatments abound. It is estimated per cent were in the public sector. The
(NSSO), 40 per cent of the respon- that in India two-thirds of the money situation now could be far worse.
dents did not take treatment for their spent on medical treatment goes to- In addition to this is the scal man-
serious ailments because of nancial wards buying unnecessary drugs be- agement pressure from the Centre on
constraints. According to the Planning cause of irrational prescriptions by the States, resulting in massive budge-
Commissions Steering Committee private practitioners. Such an environ- tary cuts in the socio-economic sec-
Report on health, the average cost of ment has enabled the pharmaceutical tors, including the already deprived
private health care is about eight times industry, which comes under the Min- health services. The overall health ex-
the cost in the government sector. istry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, to penditure by States declined from 4.5
Not only does the private sector thrive. There is a proliferation of brand per cent in 1999-2000 to 3.6 per cent
need to be regulated, it must also be names in India, with as many as in 2008-09.
integrated into the public health sys- 80,000 brands around. Even so, only Besides, the government subsidy
tem where possible and in certain sit- 20 to 40 per cent of the people have for health also does not reach the poor-
uations be required to perform the role access to all essential drugs they need. er sections of the population. Accord-
of the public health system. Health Many drugs are sold at huge prot ing to a WHO report, only 10 per cent
care, being predominantly private- margins of 200 to 400 per cent, thus of the total subsidy goes towards the
sector driven, makes the system ur- putting essential drugs beyond the re- benet of the poorest 20 per cent of the
ban-oriented with a bias towards terti- ach of the common man. The prices of population, whereas the richest 20 per
ary-level health services. Protability drugs have grown at a disproportion- cent avails itself of 33 per cent of the
becomes the bottom line, ignoring eq- ately high rate when compared with subsidy.
uity and rationality. the Wholesale Price Index (WPI). This Access to quality health care is a
has actually worsened during the UPA basic human right and should be
MEDICAL TOURISM regime. Yet, policymakers are reluc- viewed as a fundamental right of every
Against the WHOs recommendation tant to impose any price control be- citizen. A healthy nation is a prerequi-
of 10 to 15 per cent Caesarean deliv- cause of the industry lobby prevailing site for social and economic develop-
eries, today in urban India 45 to 50 per over politics. The existing price control ment. Mere economic growth
cent of childbirths are by Caesarean. regime is far from effective as most measured in gross nancial terms, as is
This situation is attributable to a prot essential medicines are outside its pur- evident, does not ensure that. To make
motive, which has also led to an unde- view. the public health care system work re-
sirable growth in medical tourism, There is also the issue of the spu- quires determined political leader-
with indirect government support for rious drug market, which the Drug ship, adequate investment and
patients from West Asia and the devel- Controller General of India (DCGI) appropriate policy instruments rooted
oped world who have the money to appears ill-equipped or unwilling to in ground realities.
pay. tackle. Therefore, a national drug au- Therefore, in the run-up to the
Even medical education has be- thority under the Health Ministry be- general election, from the perspective
come private-sector dominated. The comes necessary. of the electorate, peoples health
Medical Council of India (MCI), re- As regards investment during the should be accorded top priority along
sponsible for maintaining standards in past ve years, the average spending with education and food security. Pub-
medical education and in the medical on health was 0.86 per cent of the gross lic health must be brought to the top of
profession, has increasingly become domestic product (GDP) as against the the political agenda, which, unfortu-
subservient to the interests of private 2 to 3 per cent that the UPA promised. nately, has not been in evidence in the
enterprise. Even as a fraction of the total expendi- past 60 years of independence.

F R O N T L I N E 2 5
Cover Story APRIL 10, 2009

Ways of Hindutva
The violence in Gujarat and Orissa has generated disgust towards the Sangh
Parivar, but Hindu communalism is seeking to refurbish its image. B Y K . N . P A N I K K A R

CO MMUN A L I S M Among the many reasons that attract people to a

communal ideology and to communal violence are
fundamentalism and poverty. For a long time,
Hindu fundamentalism remained rather muted.

NO other phenomenon has affected life in the forces pursued in order to perpetuate the newly ac-
subcontinent so adversely as communalism. When quired political power. They realised that controlling
this monster came on the stage as early as the the state institutions in itself was not sufcient if
beginning of the 18th century, as evidenced by a they were to consolidate power and exercise it for a
communal riot in Ahmedabad, no one perhaps had long time to their political advantage. It would be
an inkling about the magnitude and character it necessary to transform the character of the adminis-
might assume in future. tration itself.
Although it took a long time for it to take centre The secular administrative practices, which the
stage, when it did, it had a devastating effect on Indian state had followed since Independence, albeit
Indian polity and society. Its inherent ability to di- with limitations, were out of sync with the new regi-
vide people on the basis of religion and sow the seeds me. The Sangh Parivar expected from the state in-
of mutual hatred led to the partition of the country. stitutions active involvement in the pursuit of its
The people of India and Pakistan can ill afford to communal agenda. In other words, it wanted the
forget the human tragedy that Partition entailed. administration to shed its secular character and
The pathos of Partition, which the Urdu writer Sadat serve as the communal arm of the state. In pursuit of
Ali Manto so touchingly captured in Toba Tek Sing this objective, the governments led by the Bharatiya
and Khol Do, or the masterly account in Bhishm Janata Party (BJP), both at the Centre and in the
Sahnis Hindi novel, Tamas, tell us how devastating States, ensured that communal elements were exten-
and brutal communalism can be. sively, if not exclusively, recruited into various
The heart-rending experience of Partition, how- branches of the administration.
ever, did not put an end to communalism. It only The extent to which it succeeded in this endea-
exacerbated it, at least in India, as the memories of vour is difcult to ascertain, but it is fairly apparent
inter-communal violence were invoked for political that a conscious policy to induct Sangh Parivar cadre
mobilisation. As a result, during the post-Indepen- was followed. A good example is the police. It is
dence period, communalism continued to plague widely reported that the police force in States ruled
social consciousness and colour political perspec- by the BJP, such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and
tives in the country. By the end of the 20th century, Gujarat, has been saffronised by inducting recruits
its inuence had assumed such proportions that from the Sangh Parivar. The consequences are by
Hindu communal forces succeeded in wielding pow- now well known. In the communal conagration in
er at the Centre and in some States. This success Gujarat in 2002, the police not only refused to in-
heralded a new stage in the development of commu- tervene to save the victims but actually abetted mem-
nalism and at the same time a tumultuous phase in bers of organisations such as the Vishwa Hindu
the political history of the nation. Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal in their crimes.
The access to power that the communal forces Police partisanship has also been reported from
gained by the end of the 20th century was important Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and other States in
for a variety of reasons. Among them, the most sig- which the BJP is or was in power. Almost all state
nicant was the two-fold agenda that the communal institutions underwent such a transformation under

2 6 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

R ASH TR I YA S W A YA M S E W A K S A N GH cadre participate in a self-protection demonstration at the Keshav Memorial
School in Hyderabad. A le picture. Over the past 70 years, the RSS has set up thousands of schools. Such
educational institutions function as conduits for the recruitment of young children to the communal fold.
of education and culture were under-
taken with such an intention. In order
to realise it, the ideological apparatus-
es of the state were placed under the
control of communal activists, ideo-
logues and fellow travellers. They rew-
rote the national agenda in communal
terms. Their interventions in the edu-
cational, cultural and intellectual

elds sought to privilege indigenous

knowledge over others and thus create
a Hindu nationalist fervour. In the
process, they sought to redene the
nation as Hindu.
C H R ISTI A N S M O V I N G T O government-arranged camps after hiding in a The work of these captive state
forest for several days, at Naugram village, in Orissa on August 30, 2008. institutions was complemented by the
Thousands of Christians were driven from their homes by violent Hindutva activities of a large number of civil so-
activists following the murder of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader. ciety organisations. There is hardly
any area of social and cultural life in
BJP rule. When the National Demo- cused of being the brain behind the which the Sangh Parivar has not made
cratic Alliance was defeated in the last Malegaon bomb blast, may not be an its presence felt. Educational institu-
elections, it was hoped that the secular isolated instance. tions have received particular atten-
character of the administration would What distinguished BJP rule from tion because of the role they can play as
be retrieved. However, it did not hap- the previous administrations was the channels of ideological dissemination.
pen. The lack of political will was not manner in which the government was Over the past 70 years, the Rashtriya
the only reason. The communal ele- used to realise the political agenda of Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) has set up
ments were so well entrenched in the creating a Hindu state. The Sangh Pa- thousands of schools. A relatively re-
administration that they could prevent rivar looked upon the government not cent initiative is the single-teacher
the attempts to recover secular prac- from the perspective of what was im- schools, Ekal Vidyalayas, established
tices. This has led to a paradox: a go- mediately possible, but as an instru- in tribal villages.
vernment pledged to secularism, but ment to create a communal future. As It is difcult to ascertain how many
an administration predominantly such, its main interest was to construct educational institutions are function-
manned by communal elements. As a a social and political consciousness ing under the aegis of the Sangh Pari-
result, communal inuence remained that would usher in and sustain a Hin- var, but the number is large enough to
unabated in administration. Even the du nation. That was the purpose for mould the outlook of a substantial sec-
Army, it is reported, was not free from which the institutions of the state, par- tion of the young generation. The im-
the communal inuence. If so, it is ticularly the ideological apparatuses, portance of the work of these
possible that the example of Lieute- were used extensively. institutions is that they function as
nant Colonel S.K. Purohit, who is ac- Almost every initiative in the elds conduits for the recruitment of young

F R O N T L I N E 2 7
APRIL 10, 2009

children to the communal fold. The as a weapon of terror and revenge had forest to escape from the attacks of the
inuence thus gained enables commu- not occurred before. Slitting open the members of Hindu communal orga-
nal organisations to expand their ac- womb of a pregnant woman and nisations. A condition for their return
tivities even in the absence of political throwing the foetus in re was unprec- is reconversion to Hinduism. Both
power. That is why during the past ve edented even in the annals of commu- these States controlled by the BJP have
years, when the political inuence of nal violence. So was the manner in not discharged even the basic duty of
the communal forces declined, as evi- which Pastor Graham Staines and his protecting the lives and property of
dent from the reverses of the BJP in children were burnt to death. Gujarat citizens.
elections, the social and cultural and Orissa testify to the extent to Among the many reasons that at-
fronts, such as the VHP and the RSS, which communalism could dehuman- tract people to a communal ideology
not only held their fort, but actually ise society. and to communal violence are funda-
expanded their sphere of inuence. A major social consequence of mentalism and poverty. For a long
In fact, the political discomture communalism is the segregation of time, despite occasional outbursts,
did not mean a decline in its ideolog- people on the basis of their religious Hindu fundamentalism remained
ical inuence. On the contrary, the beliefs and, more grievously, the dis- rather muted. It now appears to be
past ve years marked the spread of placement of populations from their breaking out of its self-imposed re-
communal ideology to new sections of traditional areas of residence. The straint. It may not be altogether in-
the population, particularly Dalits and ghettoisation of minorities has been accurate to locate in the Sri Rama Sene
Adivasis. happening in almost all cities for quite of Pramod Muttalik the signs of
some time. After each communal riot, emerging Talibanism among Hindus.
BRUTAL VIOLENCE people move to areas where their co- The question Muttalik has raised is
Faced with the prospect of losing polit- religionists can possibly provide safe- what constitutes authentic Indian cul-
ical power, Hindu communalism has ty. Such a process has happened in ture. The answer he and his ilk provide
been resorting to violence and even almost all cities: Mumbai, Delhi, Ah- is that everything with an external ori-
terrorism to consolidate its militant medabad, Lucknow and so on. gin is unIndian. According to him and
cadres. The unprecedented indul- There is also a social selection on Hindu fundamentalism, the syncretic
gence in violence and aggression wit- the basis of religion. Popular idols such tradition for which India is justly fa-
nessed recently is a part of this as Shabana Azmi and Shah Rukh mous has no place.
strategy. Violence, both spontaneous Khan have testied that they found it On the eve of the elections, Hindu
and premeditated, has always been an difcult to get a house in the most communalism is desperately seeking
integral part of communalism. But modern metropolis of India. Even to refurbish its image. The strategy of
during the past few years, the charac- they. Some of my Muslim friends could violence and intimidation did not earn
ter of communal violence has changed. not rent a house in the capital of sec- any dividend; it has actually backred.
It has become more intense, inhuman ular India. While looking for a house in The demolition of the Babri Masjid,
and brutal. Kozhikode, Kerala, I was told by the for instance, alienated the liberal Hin-
Earlier, communal tensions and broker that the neighbour is not a du, as he or she saw in it an assault on
resulting riots did not lead to large- Muslim. This natural selection the civilisational values of India. The
scale mayhem and murder. Their re- which communalism is bringing about recent violence in Gujarat and Orissa
ach was limited and they were general- is a way of ensuring religious segre- has generated revulsion towards the
ly suppressed quickly by the gation. Ahmedabad already has a bor- Sangh Parivar. There is also general
intervention of the state. Society and der separating Hindu India and disapproval of the fundamentalist an-
the administration then exercised a re- Muslim Pakistan. Short of expelling tics in Karnataka and the terrorist fo-
straining inuence. Not any longer. the minorities from the country, is rays in Maharashtra. Consequently,
Communal riots are large-scale events communalism aiming to create sep- Hindu communal forces are no more
now; some of them, such as the anti- arate religious enclaves? reckoned as responsible enough to be
Sikh riots of 1984 and the genocide in Large-scale displacement of pop- entrusted with the administration of
Gujarat of 2002, were like holocausts. ulations has been a common conse- the country. As such, the BJP is not a
Not only are they larger in terms of the quence in almost all communal major contender for power in the com-
number of victims, but their manifes- incidents in recent times. In Gujarat, ing elections.
tation has become so cruel that it is more than 100,000 people belonging Yet, communalism continues to be
difcult to associate the perpetrators to the Muslim community ed their an important issue. Therefore, it is im-
with human beings. homes and lived for months in camps. perative on other political formations,
It is most painfully exhibited in the It is estimated that about 80 per cent of the United Progressive Alliance and
cruelty against women. Rape is com- them have not been able to return to the Left Alliance, to clarify to the peo-
mon in all communal riots. But the their homes. In Orissa too, thousands ple where they stand in relation to
way in which rape was used in Gujarat of Christians have taken shelter in the communalism.

2 8 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009
Cover Story

Imperfect sympathy
What the manifestos and common minimum programmes of political parties and
governments in the past held for Dalits. B Y P . S . K R I S H N A N

An example of serious commitment to the
fullment of manifesto promises was Prime
Minister V.P. Singh, in 1990. He regularly

discussed each promise and monitored progress.

IN the last two decades, major political parties OBCs and religious minorities. Specic commit-
and coalitions in power have expressed sympathy for ments listed in that CMP under the head Scheduled
the Scheduled Castes (S.Cs), the Scheduled Tribes Castes, Scheduled Tribes arranged subject-wise
(S.Ts) and the Socially and Educationally Backward include:
Classes (SEBCs) /Other Backward Classes (OBCs)/ (1) Protecting, strengthening and adding to em-
Backward Classes (B.Cs) in their manifestos and powering assets of/for the S.Cs and the S.Ts
common minimum programmes (CMPs). The UPA government will launch a comprehen-
The CMP of the United Front government in sive national programme for minor irrigation of all
1996 laudably committed itself comprehensively to lands owned by Dalits and Adivasis. Landless fam-
the Dalit Manifesto in the following words: The ilies will be endowed with land through implementa-
United Front government will carefully study the tion of land ceiling and land redistribution
Dalit Manifesto formulated by the National Action legislation. No reversal of ceilings legislation will be
Forum for Social Justice and implement its salient permitted.
recommendations. The Dalit Manifesto referred to Eviction of tribal communities and other forest-
is the document of March 7, 1996, incorporating the dwelling communities from forest areas will be dis-
rights and entitlements of the S.Cs, the S.Ts and the continued. The rights of tribal communities over
B.Cs authored by me under the auspices of the Na- mineral resources, water sources, etc., as laid down
tional Action Forum for Social Justice. by law will be fully safeguarded.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) go- The UPA will urge the States to make legislation
vernments National Agenda for Governance (NAG) for conferring ownership rights in respect of minor
in 1998 promised: The interests of Scheduled forest produce, including tendu patta, on all those
Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes will people from the weaker sections who work in the
be adequately safeguarded by appropriate legal, ex- forests.
ecutive and societal efforts and by large-scale educa- (2) Symbiosis of tribal communities and forests
tion and empowerment. We will continue to offer The UPA administration will take all measures
all assistance to the S.Cs, S.Ts and Backward Classes to reconcile the objectives of economic growth and
to ensure their speedy socio-economic development. environmental conservation, particularly as far as
We will remove the last vestiges of untouchability. tribal communities dependent on forests are
We will present a National Charter for Social Justice concerned.
(samajik nyay) based on the principle of social har- (3) Rehabilitation
mony (samajik samarasta). More effective systems of relief and rehabil-
One of the six basic principles of governance in itation will be put in place for tribal and other groups
the National Common Minimum Programme displaced by development projects. Tribal people
(NCMP) of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) alienated from land will be rehabilitated.
government in 2004 was: To provide for full equal- (4) Reservation in government and public
ity of opportunity, particularly in education and em- sectors
ployment for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, All reservation quotas, including those relating

F R O N T L I N E 2 9
APRIL 10, 2009

to promotions, will be fullled in a

time-bound manner. To codify all res-
ervations, a Reservation Act will be
(5) Reservation in the private
Despite such all-round sympathy,

the conditions of S.Cs, S.Ts and B.Cs,
including those of religious minorities,
have not improved substantially and
qualitatively, and in some respects
have even worsened. Thus, the goals of

economic liberation (transformation
from providers of agricultural and oth-
er labour into co-equal maliks of the
country), educational equalisation at
all levels, social dignity and real and
total equality of opportunity continue
to elude them. The reasons and the
remedy for this dichotomy between
commitments and outcome are a seri-
ous matter affecting the future of these
three categories, deserving in-depth
consideration by the entire political
leadership of the country, particularly
now in the run-up to the 15th Lok

Sabha elections.
Let us look at the record of imple-
mentation of the promises made at
these three points of time.
Implementation of the U.F.s
CMP: One plus and one minus.
A laudable initiative of the short-
lived United Front government was to
provide Rs.250 crore in December
1996, ahead of the Budget of 1997-98,
in keeping with its CMP commitment

for an important scheme, contained in

the Dalit Manifesto, of high quality
residential schools from Classes 6 to
12, in all districts for the S.Cs, the S.Ts
and the B.Cs, starting with low-literacy
districts and girls. This scheme was
designated as Kasturba Gandhi Swa-
tantrata Vidyalaya and the outlay was
placed at the disposal of the Ministry
of Welfare. But it remained in limbo;
no such residential school was estab-
lished and ultimately the accumulated
amount provided in successive Bud-
gets was taken away from that Minis-
try in 2003 and transferred to the
Ministry of Human Resource Devel-
opment (HRD). After the loss of more
than eight years the scheme reappear-
ed in the Budget of 2005-06 with the

3 0 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

name Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidya-

laya with a dilution of the original
concept of residential schools of excel-
lence from Classes 6 to 12 and an unre-
alistically low provision of outlay per
Certain negative measures sur-
faced, while substantive positive ac-
tion could not emerge. Thus, in 1997,
the Department of Personnel was al-

lowed to issue ve ofce memoran-
dums (OMs) substantially damaging
reservation. One of these OMs went to
the extent of misinterpreting a Su-
preme Court judgment and pushed the
S.Cs from the rst position in the ros- T RI B A L A C T I V I STS FR OM Koraput demonstrate for land rights, in
ter down to the seventh position and Bhubaneswar. A le picture.
the S.Ts from the third to the 13th
position a blatant injustice crying for 2005. When everything required for when it was due to reach the Lok Sab-
the last 12 years for correction and Dalits is well known, the establish- ha in its brief and nal session in Feb-
restoration of the status quo ante. ment of a committee becomes only an ruary 2009, it naturally created a
Implementation of the NDAs excuse for inaction and indolence. The furore. As requested by Dalit leaders, I
National Agenda for Governance committee appointed subcommittees. prepared a list of amendments re-
(NAG): One positive and major The committee cleared the recom- quired in the Bill, deleting all harmful
negatives. mendations of the subcommittees in provisions and inserting provisions es-
Constitutional amendments to latter 2008 and communicated them sential for the fullment of reservation
nullify three of the ve OMs men- to the respective Ministries for issue of without dilution. These amendments
tioned above were enacted. But the orders. These recommendations are were discussed and accepted by S.C.
benet could accrue to the S.Cs and the positive and sound, but not a single and S.T. Ministers and Members of
S.Ts only partly for want of focussed order or action has emanated. I Parliament and handed over by them
efforts to enforce their full implemen- brought this to the notice of important to the top leadership. It was still pos-
tation. Further, the promised National leaders of the Congress, but with no sible to bring a Bill so amended to the
Charter for Social Justice was not concrete result. Lok Sabha and get it passed and to get
presented. In the light of a commitment to the the amended Bill passed in the Rajya
Implementation of the UPAs S.Cs and the S.Ts in the CMP, a Bill for Sabha also before the announcement
CMP: Some progress but major reservation in posts and services for of elections. But this did not happen.
disappointments. the S.Cs, the S.Ts and the B.Cs was The Bill for the B.Cs was forgotten.
No allocations were made in any of introduced in Parliament in 2005. It There has been very little discourse
the Budgets for the promised Compre- went through the mill of a Parliamen- about the problems of the B.Cs and
hensive National Programme of Minor tary Standing Committee. Then it re- their aspirations even though they are
Irrigation of all lands of the S.Cs and ached a roadblock on account of mainly the victims of the destruction of
the S.Ts. No Ministry was made re- certain issues pertaining to the B.Cs. traditional occupations and the aliena-
sponsible for this important liberating The government then separated the tion of traditional resources, as in the
and empowering programme. Bills and introduced the Scheduled case of artisans, sherfolk, stonecut-
Regarding the commitment to the Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reser- ters and peasants, causing their tre-
S.Cs and the S.Ts that landless families vation in Posts and Services) Bill, mendous immiseration.
(which means all landless families) 2008, in the Rajya Sabha in its brief Discourse about all the three cate-
among them will be endowed with December 2008 session. This Bill was gories of people is very limited. Even
land, there has been no progress worth passed with a number of indefensible this is typically conducted within the
mentioning, and that is perhaps why exemptions and blockages, which pre- narrow contextual framework of elec-
the various reports to the people on the clude the fullment of reservation at toral advantage and not in the context
implementation of the NCMP, issued higher levels and in a number of edu- of right and wrong, rights and entitle-
by the government, do not even make a cational and other institutions, and ments, and the interests of the nation.
mention of this programme. certain other undesirable provisions as One of the commitments fullled
A Standing Committee of Minis- well as lacunae. was the passing of the Central Educa-
ters on Dalit Affairs was set up in As the matter came to public notice tional Institutions (Reservation in Ad-

F R O N T L I N E 3 1
APRIL 10, 2009

AT A P R O T E S T by members of the Dalit Students Solidarity Movement demanding reservation in posts and services,
in New Delhi on February 16.
missions) Act, 2006. As usual, this Act their economic liberation and educa- through a comprehensive national
was challenged in the Supreme Court. tional equalisation and social dignity programme of minor irrigation; the
The HRD Ministry took my help to and real and total equality of opportu- setting up of quality residential
place all socio-historical and current nity for them. schools and a leak-proof reservation
facts, fully and in perspective, before These three social categories con- Act providing for reservation in pri-
the Supreme Court through its law- stitute about three-fourths of the Indi- vate educational institutions; the es-
yers. an population and the near-totality of tablishment of exclusive special courts
The Supreme Court upheld the Act the countrys labour force. Their legiti- for speedy trials under the S.C. and
on April 10, 2008. The government mate needs have to be fullled in order S.T. (Prevention of Atrocities) Act; the
was also to bring in a Bill on reserva- to see that the Indian nation is able to transfer of 15 per cent and 7.5 per cent
tion in admissions to private educa- progress and rise to its full potential. of Plan outlays, before sectoral distri-
tional institutions in terms of the 93rd Since coalitions have become a fact of bution, to the special component plan
constitutional amendment. This has life in our country, their CMPs also for S.Cs and the tribal sub-plan respec-
not happened despite the efforts of the should spell out these steps. tively for relevant comprehensive
HRD Ministry. Thereafter, unlike in the past, the planning by the National S.C. and S.T.
A positive step for the S.Ts was the promises should be taken seriously Development Authority and similar
enactment of the Scheduled Tribes right from day one and practical steps State Authorities to be newly estab-
and other Traditional Forest Dwellers should be taken to full them without lished; and other important measures
(Regulation of Forests Rights) Act, allowing anyone to put obstacles. required for the S.Cs, the S.Ts and the
2006, but its thorough and total im- An example of serious commit- B.Cs, including those of religious mi-
plementation is awaited. ment to the fullment of manifesto norities. To these has to be added a
The Plan provisions, Budget out- promises was Prime Minister V.P. new reservation Act in posts and ser-
lays and the special component plans Singh, in 1990. He regularly discussed vices incorporating the comprehensive
for the S.Cs and the tribal sub-plans each promise at fortnightly meetings amendments circulated in February
have all been far short of what the S.Cs and personally monitored progress. I, 2009.
and the S.Ts are entitled to and what is as Secretary of the crucial Welfare In the general election, the S.Cs,
mandated by the Constitution, nation- Ministry, had the opportunity to par- the S.Ts and the B.Cs, should press the
al commitments and NCMP promises. ticipate actively and help in their main contestants in each constituency
Manifestos of political parties fullment. for commitments to move these com-
should, in the part relating to the S.Cs, I have communicated to a number prehensive manifesto points in their
the S.Ts and the B.Cs, including those of political parties a list of manifesto parties manifestos and CMPs and for
belonging to religious minorities, points, including land for all rural S.C. their serious fullment.
comprehensively spell out the specic and S.T. families; the development of P.S. Krishnan is a former Secretary to
steps required to achieve the goals of all lands of the S.Cs and the S.Ts the Government of India.

3 2 F R O N T L I N E
Legal Issues APRIL 10, 2009

Mercy guidelines
There is a strong case to consider Mohammad Afzals mercy petition if the
government sticks to the norms it followed in earlier cases. B Y V . V E N K A T E S A N

The inordinate delay by the Ministry ations. Whatever the governments advice, it is likely
to be interpreted in political terms.
of Home Affairs in submitting Notwithstanding the plausible interpretation of
this inordinate delay, one may ask how the govern-
Afzals petition to the President with ment and the President can decide Afzals petition
objectively. The publication of Afzals petition (The
its advice is perhaps indicative of the Afzal Petition: A Quest for Justice) by Promilla and
Company, in association with Bibliophile South Asia
dilemma the government faces in and Champa: The Amiya and B.G. Rao Foundation,
in 2007 was a signicant effort to dispel the mis-
keeping the issue free of political givings about Afzals plea for mercy. The medias
indifference to the publication of Afzals petition,
considerations. considering that a mercy petition usually remains
under wraps until the Presidents decision on it, is
THE Presidents exercise of powers under Article indeed inexplicable.
72 of the Constitution to grant pardon or to commute However, trying to understand the issues raised
the sentence of a convict handed the death penalty in Afzals mercy petition would be a futile exercise
has never been easy. Every President faces the moral without knowing how the government and the Presi-
dilemma of weighing societys cry for justice to the dent decided mercy petitions in the past. Therefore,
victims against the convicts plea for mercy. The Frontline sought from the Government of India,
Constitution provides similar powers to the Gover- under the Right to Information Act, details of mercy
nor under Article 161. When a petition under Article petitions decided by and pending with the President
72 or 161 is pending before the President or a Gover- during the past 15 years. The reply from the MHA
nor, the execution of that death sentence stands states that the President decided 12 mercy petitions
suspended. in the past 15 years, with clemency being granted in
The Presidents ability to take an objective deci- three cases. As many as 25 petitions, submitted by
sion under Article 72 is sure to come under stress if the MHA with its advice, are pending with the Presi-
the issue is politicised as it has been in the case of dent for a nal decision. The MHA is examining
Mohammad Afzal, who has been awarded the death three petitions, including Afzals, in consultation
sentence in the 2001 Parliament House attack case. with the respective State governments, to prepare its
A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, as President, received Af- advice for the Presidents nal decision.
zals mercy petition on October 4, 2006, and for-
warded it to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for LITTLE ROOM FOR DISCRETION
its advice. Since then, the Ministry has been examin- When the MHA advises the President regarding
ing the petition in consultation with the Government Afzals mercy petition, it cannot ignore the well-
of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The MHA established guidelines that it has followed meticu-
usually consults the State government concerned lously while deciding other mercy petitions. As Fron-
before submitting the mercy petition back to the tlines examination of the les relating to the 12
President with its advice as the Presidents powers decided cases revealed, the government relied on
under Article 72 are always exercised with the aid seven specic guidelines (which it called grounds) to
and advice of the Council of Ministers. advice the President on the merits of each petition.
The inordinate delay by the MHA to submit These guidelines are based on facts, and are easily
Afzals petition to the President with its advice is veriable, and leave the government with little dis-
perhaps indicative of the dilemma the government cretion in the matter. The government sought to
faces in keeping the issue free of political consider- answer yes or no to the questions implicit in each

3 4 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

guideline while determining whether

any of the seven grounds applied to a
petition. These grounds are as follows:
Personality of the convict (such as
age, sex, or mental deciency) or cir-
cumstances of the case (such as provo-
cation or similar justication). Thus, if
the convict was very young, or a wom-
an, or a mentally challenged person, or
if the offence was committed under
distress, these were considered as rele-
vant factors for the grant of clemency.
Has the appellate court expressed
doubt on the reliability of evidence but
has nevertheless decided on
Is it alleged that fresh evidence is
obtainable, mainly with a view to see-
ing whether a fresh inquiry is justied?
Has the High Court, on appeal, re-
versed an acquittal or has it, on appeal,
enhanced the sentence?
Is there any difference of opinion in
the Bench of High Court judges, neces-
sitating reference to a third judge?
Was the evidence duly considered in
xing responsibility, if it was a gang
murder case?
Were there long delays in the in-
vestigation and the trial?
If the answer is yes to even one of
these grounds, then the President
found it reasonable to grant clemency.
The details of the three cases in which
the President granted clemency amply
bear this out.
In March 1998, the President com-
muted the death sentences awarded to
S. Chalapathi Rao and G. Vijayavard-
hana Rao for their role in the torching
of an Andhra Pradesh State transport
bus near Chilakaluripet in Guntur dis-
trict on March 8, 1993, which caused
the death of 23 passengers. Their mer-
cy petitions were rejected by President
Shankar Dayal Sharma in March 1997.
Fresh petitions were led before the
President on their behalf, warranting a
Supreme Court stay on their execu-
Their second mercy petitions stat-

ed that the two Dalit youth had abso-

lutely no intention of harming, let
alone killing, any of the passengers of
the bus and that their intention was to
M OH A MM A D A F Z A L . A le picture. commit robbery so as to overcome

F R O N T L I N E 3 5
APRIL 10, 2009

their acute poverty. They had no previ- zal claimed that any truck or vehicle material witnesses were not chal-
ous criminal record and were very going to Srinagar had to pass through lenged in cross-examination and nei-
young. They committed the crime the Lakhanpur checkpost where a toll ther was any suggestion put to them to
while being mentally and emotionally is collected and particulars of every disprove the allegations against him.
disturbed and tense due to their poor vehicle, as also the name of the driver One of the key pieces of evidence
family situation. Their confessional and his driving licence number, are against Afzal was that he knew the
mercy petitions poignantly brought entered. Afzal alleged that the investi- deceased terrorists. He argued that if
out their remorse and repentance. In gation had glossed over this important the Supreme Court did not believe the
violation of the International Cov- fact. This fabrication, he suggested, so-called confession, they should also
enant of Civil and Political Rights, they discredited the alleged recoveries of a not have believed the police that he
were denied legal aid for a period of laptop and Rs.10 lakh from his posses- identied the deceased terrorists.
one year after their arrest. Sharmas sion in the truck. He alleged that he did not have the
successor, K.R. Narayanan, found The Supreme Court, in its judg- expertise to cross-examine the prose-
these facts sufcient to grant clemency ment dismissing Afzals appeal against cution witnesses on the laptop issue
under the rst ground. his conviction and sentence, dealt ex- and added that his counsel, too, did
The commutation of the death sen- tensively with the facts relating to how not examine any of the witnesses on
tence of Kheraj Ram from Rajasthan he was denied access to a lawyer. Afzal the contents of the laptop, an impor-
in 2006 was equally in accordance alleged that he was denied legal assis- tant piece of evidence recovered from
with these guidelines. The High Court tance both at the investigation stage him as cited by the prosecution.
had acquitted Kheraj Ram but the Su- and at the trial stage. The prosecution told the court that
preme Court restored the trial courts Afzal led the police to the hideouts and
conviction and death sentence. The
MHA considered 11 years of investiga- Afzal alleged to the shops where the terrorists
bought mobile phones, motorcycles
tion and trial in this case too long. It,
therefore, recommended to the Presi- that the and explosives. Afzal alleged that his
advocate did not cross-examine Prose-
dent to commute his sentence to life
imprisonment, as his case was covered shopkeepers cution Witness (PW) 66 (Inspector
Mohan Chand Sharma) at all, even
under the second and seventh
grounds. were all coerced though he was one of the most impor-
tant witnesses, and had coerced him

AFZALS PETITION into identifying into making a disclosure statement.

Afzal alleged that the shopkeepers
As these seven grounds help the Presi-
dent to be consistent, transparent and him. were all coerced into identifying him.
He said that his advocate cross-exa-
objective in arriving at a decision on a mined only 22 of the 80 prosecution
mercy petition, there is a strong case to Disagreeing with the Supreme witnesses and that during the cross-
consider Afzals mercy petition in the Courts view that his objection to the examination he sometimes just gave
light of these grounds, irrespective of lawyer was an afterthought, Afzal re- one suggestion. Even though I was the
the political controversies that the called that he had written an applica- most vulnerable person I had no legal
Presidents decision may give rise to. tion to the Designated Judge of the assistance for no fault of mine except
In his petition, Afzal claimed that trial court on July 8, 2002, that he was that I am too poor to afford a lawyer,
he became involved in the conspiracy not satised with the amicus curiae. he said.
to attack Parliament House without He said he had also given the names of The contents of Afzals petition
his knowledge, intention or willing- four lawyers and requested the judge make it clear that key pieces of evi-
ness. His allegation that ofcers of the to appoint any one of them for him. dence were ignored during the investi-
Special Task Force (STF) of Jammu Afzal claimed that he again told the gation and his inability to
and Kashmir used him and introduced court on July 12, 2002, that he was not cross-examine the prosecution wit-
him to one of the terrorists involved in satised with the person appointed as nesses effectively was a crucial factor
the attack, whom he identied as Mo- counsel and, most important, that in the success of the prosecution.
hammad, could be considered as counsel Neeraj Bansal also told the An objective study of Afzals pet-
pointing to fresh evidence. court that he wanted to withdraw from ition would, therefore, show that there
The prosecution stated that Afzal the case. But the judge did not dis- is enough justication for the Presi-
had gone to Srinagar on December 13, charge Bansal, and asked him to assist dent to grant pardon or commute his
2001, in the truck driven by another the court. death sentence by citing the third
co-accused, Shaukat Hussain, and was Afzal said he never signed any va- ground, that is, fresh evidence was ob-
arrested along with Shaukat Hussain kalatnama in favour of Bansal, the tainable, mainly with a view to suggest
in Srinagar on December 15, 2001. Af- amicus curiae. He pointed out that that a fresh inquiry is justied.

3 6 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009
Legal Issues

Wider ambit
Unlike the blind justice of courts, mercy jurisdiction is wider: the government
can consider a larger set of facts and circumstances. B Y B I K R A M J E E T B A T R A

Although precedents may have case in which the merits and reasons of state may be
profoundly assisted by prevailing occasion and pass-
limited value in mercy petitions, ing time. A virtually identical response was provid-
ed by the MHA when information on mercy-petition
there is little doubt that many of the guidelines was sought through a question in Parlia-
ment in November 2006.
points and cases discussed are Although the MHA claimed in Parliament that
no specic guidelines could be framed, it is clear that
relevant with respect to Mohammad guidelines do exist. The colonial government of Brit-
ish India had drafted certain general guidelines to
Afzals petition. assist decision-making. The MHA combined these
with a few guidelines drawn up by subsequent Home
ALTHOUGH, historically, mercy was the perso- Ministers and put them into a document, Guide-
nal prerogative of the sovereign, in the Indian re- lines for dealing with mercy petitions (see earlier
public it is a power that must be exercised by the story for list of guidelines). This undated document
government within the bounds of the Constitution. is what the government uses now for decision-mak-
Thus, the President and the Governor, in exercising ing on mercy petitions.
their mercy powers respectively under Article 72(1) In 2005, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, finding
(c) and Article 161 of the Constitution, must act on these guidelines inadequate, requested the MHA to
the advice of the Council of Ministers at the Centre consider also the following when deciding petitions:
and in the States respectively. In practice, therefore, the humanist and compassionate grounds in each
most decisions on mercy petitions are made by the case; the scope for recidivism; and the nancial lia-
Minister of Home Affairs (MHA) on the recom- bilities of the convicts family. These have not been
mendation of a Joint Secretary or an Additional included in the guidelines. A study of decided mercy
Secretary. Only a few exceptional cases have been petitions (covering 1947-1971 at the National Ar-
discussed at the level of the Cabinet. chives of India and 1981-2006 at the MHA), howev-
In making its decision on mercy, the govern- er, shows that in addition to the seven-point
ments role is not limited to looking at only the facts guidelines, many other factors inuenced the go-
found to be true by the judiciary or even the evidence vernment and the President when deciding mercy
produced in the courtroom. It can take into account petitions.
a much wider set of circumstances, facts and evi- Factors relating to evidence: Despite the wide
dence. Given this nature, as also the object of the scope of mercy proceedings, it is generally believed
power, it has been generally argued that it is impos- that the government should not provide an addition-
sible to lay down any denite rules for taking a al court of appeal. The seven-point guidelines, there-
decision on a mercy petition. fore, suggest that the government should only look
Initially, the Supreme Court suggested that it into matters of evidence in cases where the judges
would be proper for the government to make its own expressed some concern about it (Guideline II: cases
rules for guidance in decision-making. Later, howev- in which the appellate court has expressed its doubt
er, it rejected pleas from condemned prisoners, who as to the reliability of the evidence and has neverthe-
argued that the absence of guidelines led to the less decided on conviction), or in specic cases where
arbitrary exercise of power. fresh evidence was claimed (Guideline III: cases
In the landmark judgment in the Kehar Singh where it is alleged that fresh evidence is obtainable
case (AIR 1989 SC 653), the Supreme Court noted mainly with a view to seeing whether fresh inquiry is
that power under Article 72 is of the widest ampli- justied), or where an individuals role in a gang
tude, can contemplate a myriad kinds and categories murder had to be determined (Guideline VI: Consid-
of cases with facts and situations varying from case to eration of evidence in xation of responsibility in

F R O N T L I N E 3 7
APRIL 10, 2009

gang murder cases). In practice, how- the petitioner (Haridas Ramdas, to have inuenced the decision was the
ever, the government has commuted a 1958). nearly 1,500 petitions sent by persons
large number of sentences on grounds In a number of other cases also, across Gujarat pleading for mercy in
of inadequate or unsatisfactory evi- poor legal defence made available to the case. Most of the petitioners saw
dence even when the courts were con- the prisoner has led to commutation. the death sentence as an affront to the
vinced about the suitability of the Commutations have also been granted new Gujarat State and identity.
evidence. where the role of other institutions, A more obvious case was that of the
The discussion within the MHA on including the prosecution and the assassins of the former Chief of the
evidence in mercy petitions has often High Court, has been suspect. Army Staff, General A.S. Vaidya,
extended to minute details. Sentences Extinction of the family line: where the Maharashtra government
have been commuted on the executive Continuation of family line is another left the decision to the Centre given
being dissatised with the particular factor that has inuenced the exec- that the petition raised political issues
evidence presented in a case. In one utive to commute death sentences. relating to developments in Punjab.
case, the sentence was commuted as This appears to have come in as early Identity of victim: Although ap-
the government believed it would be as 1956 when the sentence of one An- pearing to be a vital consideration in
risky to send a person to the gallows grez Singh was commuted with a view practice, this is one factor that is rarely
only on the basis of oral evidence of a to saving the family from virtual ex- mentioned on the record. A rare excep-
stereotyped nature. Other reasons tinction. tion was a case where the Home Minis-
have ranged from inconsistencies in In another case, where one brother ter of then Madras State sought the
dying declarations and scope for tu- murdered his parents, the executive rejection of a mercy petition as the
toring to contradiction in witness commuted the sentence to avoid mag- victim was the mother of one of the
testimonies and lack of indepen- nifying the loss of the remaining Deputy Directors of Education in the
dence in testimonies. brothers, while in another, a husband State and the case had created a lot of
In a case where two brothers killed who killed his wife had his death sen- excitement locally. The petition was
their step-brother, allegedly over a tence commuted to prevent the chil- rejected by the Governor of Madras,
property dispute, the government was dren from becoming guardian-less. but it was commuted by the President
not convinced entirely about the evi- The eventuality of an old man becom- largely on grounds of insufcient
dence of the motive and commuted the ing sonless was sufcient to commute evidence.
sentence by way of abundant caution the sentence in another case. Where In two other cases, victims family
(P. Venkatramiah, 1961). two brothers were sentenced to death, members ofcially played a vital role.
In a number of cases, the govern- such a rationale effectively became a In the petition led by one Parmatma
ment has even gone so far as to con- lottery since, despite identical roles in Saran (1961), a letter from the father of
clude that the evidence on record does the murder, one brother was sen- the victim in favour of mercy played a
not show the real facts of the case, tenced to life while the other was major role in the governments deci-
thereby presuming other reasons for hanged (Bharwad Mepa Dana, 1960). sion to commute the sentence, while in
the offence. General security considerations: proceedings relating to Dhananjoy
Legal defence and so on: The Impact on law and order has often Chatterjee (1994), a letter from the fa-
competence and adequacy of the legal been taken into account as a factor by ther of the victim asking for the rejec-
defence has been a key factor for com- the executive in the decision-making tion of the petition and the execution
mutation of sentences in several cases. process. In Sawai Singhs case (1985), of the accused was relied upon by the
In a case where a man killed his wife the mercy petition was rejected since MHA in recommending rejection in
(and son) suspecting her of indelity, the victim was a policeman and com- its summary for the Home Minister.
the executive noted that the defence mutation would not be in the interests
case was not properly thought of and a of maintaining the morale of the po- THE AFZAL CASE
wrong defence was made out on his lice. References to the general law Cases such as those of Mohammad Af-
behalf. This resulted in the petitioner and order situation in a State were a zal are not easy for the government to
being found guilty by the court despite factor in deciding a number of other decide. It has to keep in mind a num-
strong comments on the inadequate cases as well. ber of factors, implications and com-
defence of the petitioner. The Minister Broad political situation: Dinub- plications before making a nal
of State for Home Affairs, also nding hai Bhimbhai Desais (1960) was a decision. Although precedents may
that witnesses for the prosecution prominent case in which the petitioner have limited value in mercy petitions,
were not even properly cross-exa- killed his wife over a dowry dispute. there is little doubt that many of the
mined, recommended commutation Although the death sentence was com- above points and cases discussed are
of the sentence, noting that he was muted because the President raised relevant with respect to Afzals pet-
amazed at the utter incompetency of concerns about the lack of proof of the ition. Questions of evidence, the qual-
the defence put forward on behalf of motive, another factor that appeared ity of legal defence and the broader

3 8 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

tional head of state. Although, effec-

tively, the government makes the
mercy decision, the President is not a
mere rubber stamp. She has an oppor-
tunity to return the petition, asking for
the governments recommendation to
be reviewed. This has been exercised
by many Presidents in the past, in-
cluding Rajendra Prasad, S. Radhak-
rishnan and Zakir Hussain.
Abdul Kalam also returned a large
number of cases for reconsideration.
Further, although the President can-
not seek reconsideration more than
once, President K.R. Narayanan
showed that there was no compulsion
to sign the rejection of the petition
On the other extreme lies the jud-
icial murder of Kehar Singh. Follow-
ing the assassination of Prime
Minister Indira Gandhi, Kehar Singh
was convicted of being involved in the
conspiracy (along with the two assas-
sins) on the basis of extremely imsy
circumstantial evidence. V.M. Tar-

kunde, former Judge of the Bombay

High Court, remarked that the evi-
dence was not sufcient even to hang a
dog. Instead of exercising his moral
authority and powers for seeking re-
M A QB O O L B UT T , J K LF founder, was executed in 1984 after his petition,
consideration, President R. Venkata-
pending for seven years, was rejected apparently as revenge for the raman allowed the mercy petition to
abduction and murder of an Indian diplomat in the United Kingdom by the be rejected without any questions or
Kashmir Liberation Army. Here, JKLF activists in Srinagar mark the objections.
anniversary of his hanging, in February, with a protest demanding the return Although he never completely ad-
of his remains buried inside Tihar Jail in New Delhi. mitted to this lapse, in his autobiog-
raphy the former President suggests
political implications in Kashmir have In Afzals petition many facts have that the decision was politically motiv-
all been raised in petitions led by Af- also been raised in support of the plea ated, noting that Kehar Singhs case
zal and by others on his behalf. The for a fresh investigation or inquiry into raised a few queries in my mind
above cases show that each of the fac- the attack on Parliament House. Such should not the President have discre-
tors has already been a consideration an investigation would not be unprec- tion to examine any extenuating cir-
for mercy in the past. edented. cumstance and alter the death
On the other hand, the case of an- In a number of mercy cases, both sentence without the advice of the go-
other Kashmiri, Maqbool Butt, also State and Central governments found vernment? How else can prejudice or
shows us the ugly face of the mercy it t to seek fresh inquiries from vari- partisanship be prevented? (Page
power. Butt, the founder and former ous State criminal investigation de- 249-250, My Presidential Years).
leader of the separatist Jammu and partments. In at least three cases in the President Pratibha Patil must bear
Kashmir Liberation Front, had his 1960s, such re-investigations at the these facts in mind when she examines
petition pending for seven years. He mercy stage led to commutation (Av- Mohammad Afzals petition.
was executed in 1984 after his petition tar Singh, 1961; Baij Nath Puri, 1963; Bikram Jeet Batra (bjba-
was rejected apparently as revenge for and Har Charan, 1967). tra@gmail.com) is a lawyer and re-
the abduction and murder of an Indian Even if the government rejects Af- searcher and is at present writing a
diplomat in the United Kingdom by zals petition, the President can assert book on the death penalty in indepen-
the Kashmir Liberation Army. her moral authority as the constitu- dent India.

4 0 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

Hat-trick of hits
The success of the DRDOs March 6 test
means that India will have a ballistic
missile defence shield ready for
deployment in four years.

The Prithvi interceptor missile

achieved a direct hit and detonation
of the modied Dhanush missile at
an altitude of 80 km. Dhanush was
simulating the nal phase of the
trajectory of ballistic missiles with a
range of 1,500 km.
THE Defence Research and Development Orga-
nisations (DRDO) prowess in advanced software
that goes into the making of interceptor missiles was
proved convincingly on March 6 when a Prithvi
interceptor missile achieved a direct hit-to-kill on an
enemy missile. The interception took place at an
altitude of 80 kilometres when a modied Dhanush
missile, launched from the naval ship INS Subhadra
in the Bay of Bengal, was in its descent phase and
hurtling towards Wheeler Island, off Orissas coast.
Dhanush was simulating the nal phase of the tra-
jectory of ballistic missiles with a range of 1,500 km,
such as Pakistans Ghauri missile. At the end of over
ve minutes of heightened suspense at the Launch
Control Centre (LCC) on Wheeler Island, the Prithvi
interceptor missile cut into the path of the incoming
Dhanush missile, knocked it out and also pulver-
ised the latter with its new manoeuvrable warhead.
Such was the accuracy of the interception that

those scanning the plot-boards at the LCC celebrat-

ed like never before. India was nally on the way to
acquiring a ballistic missile defence shield to thwart
enemy attacks. In terms of strategic importance, the
success established Indias capability to intercept
Pakistans Hatf and Ghauri missiles.
Our strength is our software, V.K. Saraswat, Prithvi racing
Programme Director, Air Defence, DRDO, had de- towards its target soon after its launch from
clared in November 2008. In the ballistic missile Wheeler Island, off the Orissa coast, on March 6.

F R O N T L I N E 4 1
APRIL 10, 2009

defence shield, if there are glitches in can take care of the manoeuvres per-
the software, it cannot be excused. It formed by the attacker; and the very
has to work thoroughly. There are a advanced software residing in the
million lines of code. The onboard computers of the interceptor. The war-
software runs in real time in the in- head is called a directional one because
terceptor missile. it can be directed to explode towards
Saraswat called the March 6 suc- the target. Only the U.S. and Russia
cess a major test in assembling the have gimballed directional warheads.
ballistic missile defence system as part Regarding the software used in the
of network-centric warfare. He add- interceptor, Saraswat said: The soft-
ed: In the next 25 years, you will see a ware of the guidance, control and navi-
growth in the direction of network- gation systems, which was generated
centric warfare. So we are making by our scientists in Hyderabad, is prac-
these building blocks. tically the high watermark of the tech-
It was the third success in a row for nology of our ballistic missile defence
the DRDO, which has been making system. It will not be out of place to say
all-out efforts to acquire a two-layered that while many countries have been
ballistic missile defence shield with in- struggling for many years to get this
terceptors that can shoot down incom- kind of performance, it is to the credit
ing missiles. It tasted success in its rst of the young team at the DRDO that it
mission on November 27, 2006, when made this mission a success. As far as
a Prithvi missile intercepted a Prithvi- the programme is concerned, this is a
II missile at an altitude of 48 km in major milestone in proving the capa-
what is called the exo-atmosphere. It bility of our ballistic missile defence
was a direct hit. The interceptor was shield. The computer controlled, nav-
called Prithvi Air Defence (PAD-01). igated and guided the vehicle towards hostile target which would impact
Again, on December 6, 2008, an Ad- its target, besides performing a series close to Wheeler Island very soon. This
vanced Air Defence (AAD) missile of mission-sequencing tasks. Besides, information was received by the LCC,
shot down a modied Prithvi missile at the interceptor had a special software which used it to compute the trajectory
an altitude of 15 km in what is called to discriminate the terminal phase of of the interceptor to engage the in-
the endo-atmosphere when the at- the enemy missiles ight. Intercep- coming ballistic missile. It then decid-
tacker was in the nal stage of its tions would take place in the terminal ed that the interception should take
ight. It was a direct hit too. With the phase. place at an altitude of 80 km when
March 6 direct hit, the DRDO has Dhanush was in its descent mode. The
achieved a hat-trick. THE TEST LCC also quickly decided when the in-
If the interception on March 6 took Dhanush, the enemy missile, was a terceptor, named Prithvi Air Defence
place at an altitude much higher than single-stage missile with a diameter of (PAD-02), should lift off. When the
in the previous missions, there are dis- one metre, a weight of 4.5 tonnes, and launch computer gave the command
tinct advantages to it. The debris will a height of 9.4 m. Propelled by liquid for it to blast off, the two-stage in-
take longer to fall through the atmo- fuel, it quickly climbed to an altitude of terceptor, 10 metres tall, weighing 5.2
sphere and become cin- 150 km, cut a parabola tonnes and having a diameter of one
ders because of re-entry and started heading to- metre, rose from a truck on the beach-
heat. In an actual war, wards Wheeler Island. head on the island. While its rst stage
this will reduce the effect About 50 seconds into its was powered by liquid fuel, the second
of any fallout of the de- ight, radars at Konark stage had solid propellants.
bris of a nuclear warhead and Paradip in Orissa About ve minutes and ten sec-
and the risks associated tracked the missile and onds later, when the interceptor had
with radiation. relayed the information reached an altitude of 80 km, its hom-

Three features stood to the Mission Control ing seeker acquired the target when it
out in the latest mission: Centre (MCC) on Wheel- was 25 km away. Using this informa-
the Prithvi interceptor er Island. The MCC then tion, the interceptors computer guid-
missiles gimballed/ma- analysed whether it was a ed it towards the target and brought it
noeuvrable warhead, ballistic missile or an air- within a few metres of Dhanush.
which can rotate 360 de- V . K . S A RA S W A T , craft. Within ve sec- At this point of time, the radio
grees; the interceptors Programme Director, onds, the MCC proximity fuse (RPF) of the gimballed
coasting phase, which Air Defence, DRDO. concluded that it was a directional warhead calculated the

4 2 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

TH E DH A N US H MI S S I L E being launched from the naval ship INS Subhadra in the Bay of Bengal.

distance from Dhanush and the time radar. So even if there is a manoeuvre the hat-trick of successes, Indias bal-
at which the warhead should detonate. by the enemy missile in the last 500 listic missile defence shield would be
When the interceptor and the tar- milliseconds, the RPF will be able to ready for deployment in about four
get were practically colliding with each take care of it. The directional warhead years. It will take us a couple of more
other, the warhead was detonated, will be ignited on the basis of the data trials before our system is ready to be
which led to the fragmentation of the given by the RPF, said Saraswat. offered for deployment. In the next
target and the interceptor. It was a Another major element employed trial, we will do combined intercep-
direct hit and also a warhead detona- in the mission was the advanced battle tions in both the exo-atmosphere and
tion. A large number of fragments management command, control and the endo-atmosphere, he said.
formed due to the collision and det- communication software, which resid- Saraswat praised the synergy and
onation of the warhead were tracked ed in the MCC. The entire event was the collective skill and knowledge of
by ground radars and the radars on tracked by a number of ground sta- the DRDO laboratories which made
ships. We could see on our plot boards tions with complete mobile and static the mission a success. They included
hundreds of new tracks being formed, communication systems provided by the Research Centre Imarat, the Ad-
conrming that it was both a direct hit satellites, bre optics and line-of-sight vanced Systems Laboratory and the
and a detonation, Saraswat said. communication. Defence Research and Development
The highlights of the mission were Saraswat said: It was a mission Laboratory, all located in Hyderabad
proving the technology of the gim- planned, designed and executed with and collectively called the missile
balled directional warhead and dem- clockwork precision. It proves the ro- complex; the High Energy Materials
onstrating the interceptors coasting bustness, reliability and repeatability Research Laboratory, the Armament
phase, using a vernier thruster. This of the design of Indias emerging bal- Research and Development Establish-
coasting phase in the interceptors tra- listic missile defence system, which ment, and the Research and Devel-
jectory helps it to decide at what stage can take care of incoming missiles with opment Establishment (Engineers),
it should intercept the enemy mis- a range of 300 km to 1,500 km. It all located in Pune; the Electronics and
sile. If the attacker does a manoeuvre, demonstrates that the DRDOs ballis- Radar Development Establishment,
the interceptors guidance system will tic missile defence shield has reached a Bangalore; the Terminal Ballistics Re-
take care of it. To make the seeker great level of maturity. search Laboratory, Chandigarh; and
effective, the DRDO used a wide-beam W. Selvamurthy, Chief Controller, the Vehicle Research and Develop-
RPF in the warhead, which was a mini- DRDO, predicted that in the wake of ment Establishment, Ahmednagar.

F R O N T L I N E 4 3
Defence APRIL 10, 2009

Why BrahMos failed

SUCCESS stories at the Defence Re- mission, therefore, has underlined chemical weapons factory, could not
search and Development Organisa- the need for India to have its own exceed one metre. Reectors had
tion are occasionally interspersed GPS-linked satellites instead of de- been installed to mislead the missile.
with failure. An experiment on Ja- pending on American or Russian The DRDO, therefore, made a
nuary 20 was one such. constellations, said an ofcial. new seeker for the missile to meet
The supersonic cruise missile BrahMos, jointly developed by this challenge. A software was devel-
BrahMos missed the target at the India and Russia, is essentially an oped with a new algorithm, which
Armys range at Pokhran in Rajas- anti-ship missile. It can hit targets was to help the missile reach the tar-
than because its global positioning 290 km away, and can cruise at a get by using the GPS data obtained
system (GPS) blanked out, said particular altitude at Mach 3 (three from the U.S. satellites. The mission
DRDO ofcials. The American satel- times the speed of sound). BrahMos demanded that the missiles inertial
lites that run the GPS had been is the only missile in the world, ac- navigation system (INS), its GPS re-
switched off on the day Barack Oba- cording to the DRDO, that can hit ceiver and its seeker should all work
ma was sworn in the United States targets both in sea and on land, with- together.
President, they said. The missile, out any change in its hardware; only But there were constraints on the
therefore, travelled for 112 seconds the software in the missiles comput- mission. A DRDO ofcial said:
instead of the slated 84 seconds and er has to be changed. When the missile is ying very fast,
fell 7 km away from the target. Ofcials of the DRDO described it is difcult to perform ma-
The ofcials could not say the January 20 mission as a difcult noeuvres. The GPS data did not
whether the Americans had deliber- one because the target was just 50 come in time, so the INS data with its
ately switched off the GPS satellites km away instead of the normal 290 uncorrected error was taken as the
to test whether Indias missile mis- km. The missile, launched in a land- reference and we missed the target.
sion would be a success without attack mode, had to hit a particular A repeat mission on March 4,
them. They conceded that it was pos- target out of a cluster of targets. The with the American GPS-linked satel-
sible to switch off GPS-linked satel- Army insisted that the error in hit- lites turned on, was a success.
lites selectively. The failure of the ting the target, which resembled a T.S. Subramanian


BR A H MO S MI S S I LES O N display at the Army Day parade in New Delhi on January 15.

4 4 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009
Nuclear Issues

Fuel crisis
A CAG report blames the Department of Atomic Energys poor planning and
mismanagement for the uranium shortage. B Y R . R A M A C H A N D R A N

Even as the DAE planned for Pressurised Heavy

Water Reactors, matching targets were not set for
the front-end chain of the fuel cycle exploration,
mining, processing/milling and fuel fabrication.
IN one of its most damning reports on the De- mission of that failure. But Kakodkar went on to say,
partment of Atomic Energy (DAE), the Comptroller [O]ur uranium exploration programme has seen a
and Auditor General of India (CAG) has found that paradigm shift... and we should not rule out a PHWR
even though India has adequate uranium resources capacity much larger than 10,000 MWe. Giv-
to achieve the target of 10,000 MWe with natural- enthe unprecedented programme thrust, I see no
uranium red Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors reason why this should not happen (emphasis add-
(PHWRs), the widening fuel demand-supply mis- ed). The CAG report, however, makes it clear that
match and the consequent fuel crunch in the coun- such a thrust is just not there.
trys nuclear power programme (NPP) are largely The DAE had originally (in 1984) set the target of
because of the poor planning and mismanagement 10,000 MWe from PHWRs to be achieved by 2000.
of the fuel supply chain by the department. In 1995, following funding cuts during the1990s, this
The series of PHWRs (currently numbering 15) was deferred to 2020. The revised milestone also
constitutes the rst stage of the three-stage NPP formed part of the DAEs 1997 document Vision
whose basic premise is that with 10,000 MWe from 2020. But the road map up to 2020, which was
PHWRs, sustained growth of nuclear power based actually drawn up only in 2001, was incomplete as it
entirely on indigenous resources, and thereby long- did not fully address the fuel needs of PHWRs up to
term energy security, can be achieved. Homi J. 2020, notes the CAG report. While there was no
Bhabha, the founder of the Indian atomic energy deciency in planning for new PHWRs (from the 9th
programme, was also the chief architect of the three- to the 13th Plans) to meet the target, the DAE did not
stage development of nuclear power. The year 2009 link the availability of fuel while laying down the
marks his birth centenary, which the DAE is all set to timeline for new reactors, the report has observed. It
celebrate. Coming at this juncture, the CAG report takes 10 to 15 years from the start of exploration until
would be highly embarrassing for the department. uranium becomes available for use. But even as the
In an earlier article on uranium shortage (The DAE planned for PHWRs, matching targets were
Hindu, July 11, 2008) it was argued that the current not set for the front-end chain of the fuel cycle
situation was a consequence of inadequate funding exploration, mining, processing/milling and fuel
for mining activities during the 1990s. While this fabrication.
certainly did contribute to the present crisis, the This is despite the fact that a committee constitu-
CAG report reveals that the DAE itself is to be largely ted by the DAE in May 2000 for the assessment of
blamed for its failure to take corrective measures uranium demand-supply for the 10th Plan conclud-
post-2000 when funding was no longer an issue. ed in its report of August 2000 that shortage of
In his 2007 Founders Day address, Dr. Anil uranium may arise from 2003-04 onwards. The Re-
Kakodkar, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commis- port on NPP up to 2020, prepared by another DAE
sion (AEC) and Secretary in the DAE, stated: The committee (December 2000), in fact, predicted a
present fuel demand-supply mismatch would not demand-supply mismatch to arise a couple of years
have arisen had [mining] projects been pursued in earlier and called for matching actions on the nucle-
the same spirit with which Dr. Bhabha started activ- ar fuel cycle front to achieve the 2020 target. Indeed,
ities at Jaduguda. This clearly is an indirect ad- the capacity factor (CF), or the plant load factor

F R O N T L I N E 4 5
APRIL 10, 2009

(PLF), dropped from 80 per cent in

2002-03 to 50 per cent in 2007-08
because of non-availability of fuel.

During 1999-2002, the DAE sought
approval for four new PHWRs Kaiga
3&4 and RAPS 5&6 at a cost of
Rs.6,354 crore. The report points out
that when the uranium committees
report became available in August
2000, the approval of the Cabinet
Committee for Economic Affairs
(CCEA) and the administrative sanc-
tion for Kaiga 3&4 were pending.
Likewise for RAPS 5&6, approvals by
the Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC)
Board, the AEC and the CCEA as well
as the administrative sanction were all
pending. However, notes the CAG,
these projects were approved in spite
of having knowledge that there was
going to be a fuel shortage. But,
more seriously, even though the Cabi-
net specically sought clarication on
the issue of availability of fuel, Cabi- made from natural uranium through a series of
net clearance was taken despite the chemical processes, at the mill in Jaduguda in Jharkhand.
knowledge that these reactors would
suffer for want of fuel and without ade- ing base within the DAE and outside of the programme. From 10th Plan
quately highlighting the shortage of did not get eroded. The CAG, however, onwards, the DAE added, to acceler-
fuel for these reactors in the Cabinet has argued that though AEC and Cabi- ate the overall programme, emphasis
notes. net notes did mention the need to sus- was on programme mode instead of
Further, according to the CAG, tain human resource and project mode and the 15-year pro-
while seeking the AECs approval for manufacturing capacity, the DAE had gramme was dovetailed to the 5-year
the perspective plan up to 2020 in July not made specic disclosures that after planning process. The CAG has, how-
2001, the DAE had not established construction these reactors would suf- ever, argued that a programme is al-
fuel availability linkages to the pro- fer for want of fuel. Contending that ways implemented through various
posed PHWRs or made the specic the auditors conclusion on non-dis- projects and cannot be viewed in
disclosure that there would be a fuel closure was injudicious, the DAE isolation.
shortage. When in August 2001, while said that the fuel position until 2000 The report quotes from the min-
approving the NPP up to 2020, the was satisfactory and new projects got utes of a November 2006 AEC meet-
AEC raised a specic query regarding sanctioned after due cognisance of the ing wherein a former AEC Chairman
fuel availability for the proposed road inventory position and planned ac- had called for having periodic and de-
map, the Chairman of the AEC and the tions for augmenting uranium pro- tailed review of various material inputs
Chairman and Managing Director duction, like opening new mines in to the NPP to which the present chair-
(CMD) of the NPC afrmed that requi- Domiasiat, Meghalaya. The fact, how- man agreed, and says: In hindsight
site action had been taken to accelerate ever, is that these planned actions of if a formal mechanism had been in
fuel-related projects in order to ensure the DAE are yet to materialise. place, it could have probably antici-
timely availability of fuel. But in real- The CAG also pointed out that the pated [the demand-supply mismatch
ity, the proposed projects on the fuel monitoring of fuel availability was be- of inputs] and taken corrective ac-
front had been so grossly mismanaged ing done both formally and informally tions. The report has further observed
that none of them could take off. through various committees and at the that the improved monitoring and
The DAE stated in its June 2008 highest level but, interestingly, more strategic planning from the second
reply that the decision to set up new in an informal manner. In response, half of 10th Plan (after the fuel crisis
PHWRs was consciously taken so as to the DAE stated that the monitoring had erupted) has still not yielded re-
ensure that the skill and manufactur- was informal because of the sensitivity sults and the demand-supply mis-

4 6 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

6,000 MWdays/t, 0.75 and 0.33 re- gan in October 1967. Subsequently,
spectively, and on loss fractions during many other mines in the region began
mining, milling and fabrication of fuel, production: Bhatin in 1986, Narwapa-
taken as 0.15, 0.2 and 0.05 respec- har in 1995 and Turamdih in 2003.
tively. Of course, before the fuel crunch But the ore produced from all these
set in, the NPC was able to achieve mines is processed in one mill at Jadu-
higher burn-ups (of about 7,000 guda. Commissioned in 1968, the mill
MWd/t) and higher capacity factors has an installed capacity of 6,27,000
(of about 0.85). tonnes per annum of ore.
The CAGs report on fuel manage- The installed mining capacity of
ment for the PHWRs has found that these four mines together is, however,
the demand-supply mismatch in 8,55,000 t/a of ore, implying a short-
meeting the targets set in the DAEs fall of 26.67 per cent in the milling
Report on the NPP up to 2020 is be- capacity. Even though faced with a fuel
cause of the departments decient shortage since 2006, the UCIL has
planning and monitoring of the fuel been operating the mill at around 110
situation. This, in turn, has resulted in per cent capacity: this mining-milling
the agencies associated with the fuel mismatch has resulted in 93,472
supply chain the Atomic Minerals tonnes of accumulated unprocessed
Directorate (AMD), Uranium Corpo- ore (as of March 2007). More signif-

ration of India Ltd. (UCIL) and the icantly, because of this mismatch, the
Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) failing UCIL operated its mines at 71-89 per
to set appropriate milestones for cent capacities during 2002-07 de-
themselves. spite the increased demand for fuel
As of September 2007, the AMD during this period. Further, the new
had identied 1,07,268 tonnes of re- opencast mine at Banduhurang, which
serves (of U3O8) of which only 71,159 was ready to produce 1,600 tonnes a
tonnes are economically viable. Be- day of ore from October 2006 and
match of fuel continues to affect ad- tween 1966 and 2007, the AMD hand- 2,400 t/d from April 2007, remained
versely the operation of the PHWRs. ed over 27 deposits in various parts of non-operational because of inade-
Since the DAE Secretary is directly the country, with a total resource po- quate milling capacity.
responsible for ensuring adequate fuel tential of 93,259 tonnes, to the UCIL. Though the installed PHWR ca-
for the PHWRs and the AEC Chair- Out of this, major reserves are from the pacity increased from 2,500 MWe in
man is required to monitor and direct Singhbhum belt in Jharkhand, which, 2002-03 to 3,580 MWe in March
the DAE to take corrective actions according to the AMD, has an estimat- 2007, and the NPCs increased fuel
against management failures, the CAG ed resource potential of 47,809 tonnes requirement was known in June 2001
has commented that the twin roles be- as of 2009. In recent years, however, itself, enhancing of the mills capacity
ing assumed by the same person di- the rate of augmentation of reserves to 2,500 t/d was taken up only in Sep-
minished the chances of owning up has dropped, the CAG notes. Though tember 2006. The above suggests sig-
failures and taking remedial actions. the DAE had set a target of 75,000 nicant deciencies in the strategic
Having a single person as head of both tonnes for the 11th Plan, as compared planning process. As remedial actions
the DAE and the AEC may lead to a to 28,195 tonnes during the 8th Plan, were within the reach of the DAE, and
conict of interest, the CAG has augmentation dropped to 13,661 were not contingent on any external-
opined, and has recommended a re- tonnes and 16,244 tonnes during the ities, the situation was avoidable,
look at this policy, particularly when 9th and the 10th Plans respectively. the CAG has concluded. The new
the country is going through a nuclear After evaluating the deposits 3,000 t/d Turamdih mill, which was to
fuel crisis. handed over by the AMD, the UCIL start in March 2006 but has got over
The uranium resources needed for carries out mining, processing and its operational problems only this year,
the DAEs 2020 target of 10,000 MWe milling of ores to produce MDU (mag- should improve the situation.
from PHWRs over their 40-year life is nesium diuranate), or yellow cake. As per the DAEs road map, notes
about 1,01,600 tonnes of the mineral The NFC converts the MDU into ura- the CAG, the UCIL had proposed
uranium oxide U3O8 (for equivalent nium dioxide (UO2) pellets and fuel mining and processing plants at Dom-
amount of uranium metal, divide by bundles for reactors. The Jaduguda iasiat (Meghalaya), Lambapur-Pedda-
1.18). This is based on average values mine is the rst uranium deposit in gattu (Andhra Pradesh) and Gogi
for burn-up, CF and electricity con- Singhbhum to be exploited in the (Karnataka) for the 10th Plan. Ores in
version efciency in PHWRs, taken as country, where mining operations be- these deposits are of better grade than

F R O N T L I N E 4 7
Nuclear Issues APRIL 10, 2009

those at Jaduguda. However, these be completed by 2007. The CAG ob- no plans for the period beyond
have all now been rescheduled for served that the work had not begun in 2016-17.
completion only in 2012. At Domia- the 10th Plan and the AMD was yet to Slippages and shortfalls in mining
siat, for example, the AMD completed complete a detailed exploration of the and milling naturally had a cascading
its detailed exploration in 1992. But site. According to the DAE, however, effect on the further downstream ac-
the project activities did not begin the economic viability of the deposit tivities of fuel fabrication by the NFC
even after 15 years though the plan was was yet to be established and there and reactor operations by the NPC.
to develop the mine quickly and ef- were external factors that were beyond But, according to the CAG, both these
ciently. Notwithstanding the long- its control. Observing that the DAEs agencies, instead of raising the red ag
standing opposition to the project current interventions had not worked, at appropriate times to signal the im-
from some sections of the local pop- and the delay had already affected fuel pending fuel crisis, diluted their own
ulation, the UCIL took as long as 12 supply adversely, the CAG has called targets even as PHWRs were being
years to prepare the detailed project for innovative decisions to solve the commissioned as per the NPP up to
report and it took two more years for deadlock at these sites with better 2020.
its revision. The Environmental Im- grade deposits. To produce enough fuel bundles
pact Assessment and the Environmen- for 10,000 MWe PHWR capacity, the
tal Management Plan were ready only MINING AND MILLING PROJECTS road map laid down in 2001 required
in 2006. However, following the failure to get the NFC to replicate the existing 600
There was also a three-year delay these projects going, the DAE/UCIL t/a fabrication unit with one each of
in obtaining clearances from the Min- decided in June 2002 to restart some same capacity during the 10th-11th
istry of Environment and Forests mining and milling projects in Singhb- and 11th-12th Plan periods respective-
(MoEF), chiey because the UCIL hum, which had been shelved in antic- ly. Against this, the NFC had taken up
submitted incomplete applications, ipation of the Domiasiat mine: the in the 10th Plan augmentation of the
the CAG has noted. The UCIL also Bajgata mine the exploration of which existing unit to 850 t/a only, which is
delayed ling the mining lease appli- the AMD had completed in 1990 but to be completed this year. The CAG has
cation until October 2001. This, ac- which was closed because of a fund observed that the NFC capacity of 600
cording to the report, was one of the squeeze during the 1990s; the Mohul- t/a was not commensurate with the
most signicant delays in the project dih mine, which the AMD had handed projected requirement of fuel during
so far. The State government is yet to over in 1989; and the 3,000 t/d Tu- 2005-06 and 2006-07. The gap
give its go-ahead, approve the mining ramdih mill. The Bajgata project was ranged from 13 per cent to 56 per cent
plan and grant a mining lease. More to be completed by March 2008, but it during these three years and, had the
pertinently, even as late as mid-2008, was opened only in December 2008. plants operated at 0.85 CF, the actual
the DAE had not given nancial sanc- The Mohuldih project was approved in uranium decit would have been 7 to
tion for the project. The CAG, there- March 2004 and was to start in 2008, 62 per cent during 2002-07. Had
fore, doubts whether production at but the project is yet to be completed. there been sufcient inow of MDU
Domiasiat will commence even from The DAE apparently took seven from the UCIL (or elsewhere), the
2012. months to apply for the environmental PHWRs could not have operated at
Similar is the fate of the Lamba- site clearance and 16 more months to full capacity owing to the inadequate
pur-Peddagattu and Gogi projects. apply for the environmental project installed capacity at the NFC, the CAG
The Lambapur deposits were handed clearance. Even the DAEs adminis- has commented.
over to the UCIL in 2001 and the trative and nancial sanction came on- The NPC apparently reduced its
DAEs road map envisaged mining to ly in March 2007. The Turamdih mill, demand on the NFC, based on the ex-
commence by 2006-07. But, accord- the third revisited project, was also de- pected supply rather than on the pro-
ing to the CAG, even after more than layed by 33 months. jected demand of the PHWRs.
six years, work on the mines or the mill Even though the AMD had handed Consequently, the NFC also did not
had not progressed because of delay in over proven reserves that were suf- demand quantities of MDU commen-
obtaining clearances from the MoEF cient to meet the PHWR requirement surate with the actual fuel require-
and the State government. According up to 2020, the CAG found that the ment. This resulted in the shortage of
to the DAE, however, though all the road map drawn up by the UCIL for MDU being masked and not being
clearances were available, the UCIL uranium production was not commen- projected adequately by the NFC. Set-
had to wait because the decision of the surate with the requirements of the ting watered-down targets leads to
National Environment Appellate Au- PHWR programme. It had planned over-reporting of performance for
thority on the verdict against the the exploitation of only 46 per cent of power generation masks the real
MoEF clearance for the mine was the requirement during 2001-02 to performance and impedes timely
pending. 2007-08 and only 79 per cent for the corrective action, notes the CAG re-
Likewise, the Gogi project was to period 2008-09 to 2016-17, and had port.

4 8 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

world affairs
Promises revised
Iraq: President Obamas pronouncements on troop withdrawal show that the U.S.
hopes to retain Iraq as a military and political protectorate. B Y J O H N C H E R I A N

The presence of U.S. troops is necessary to ensure


that Washingtons favourite candidate wins the

national elections next year and parties against
the occupation are kept out of the electoral fray.
IRAQ has witnessed quite a few important devel- speedy withdrawal of troops from Iraq. The Presi-
opments in recent months. The coalition led by dent, however, seems to have gone by the advice of
Prime Minister Nouri al-Malikis Dawa Party has Defence Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from the
emerged as the strongest group after the provincial George W. Bush presidency, and senior Pentagon
elections in February. The grouping won in nine of ofcials such as CENTCOM (United States Central
the 18 provinces, including Baghdad, which has a Command) commander Gen. David Petraeus and
population of six million. The results also showed Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike
that Moqtada al Sadr, the radical Shia cleric, who has Mullen.
been keeping a low prole since his Mahdi militia According to the Obama plan, up to 50,000 U.S.
was put down in major Iraqi cities with American troops will stay on in Iraq beyond 2010 to protect the
and British military support, is no longer the politi- ongoing civilian and military efforts in the country.
cal force he once was. Even in his stronghold of Sadr The troops that will remain behind are being charac-
city, a Baghdad suburb with a population of more terised as non-combatants though they are regular
than two million, his support base is shrinking. combat troops. Besides, a 100,000-strong army of
The Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, which until mercenaries and contractors will continue to have
recently was the most powerful Shia party in the a free hand in Iraq. Retired General Barry McCaf-
country, came a cropper in the provincial elections. frey, in an internal report for the Pentagon last year,
The party is a votary of federalism as opposed to the had predicted that the Iraqi government would
Dawa Party, which has started advocating strong eventually ask for U.S. troops to stay beyond 2011
centralised rule from Baghdad. The virtually autono- with a residual force of trainers, counterterrorist
mous Kurdish-dominated north refused to partici- capabilities, logistics, and air power. Many observ-
pate in the provincial polls on the grounds that they ers fear that the reduction of American ground
would dilute the considerable power it has enjoyed troops will be balanced by an increase in American
since the rst Gulf war. The good showing of parties air power over Iraq.
advocating strong central rule and unity of the coun- John McCain, Obamas Republican rival in last
try has not gone down well with those advocating a years presidential polls, was among those who wel-
separate Kurdish homeland in the north. comed the decision to continue deploying troops in
In the last week of February, immediately after Iraq beyond the 16-month period Obama had prom-
the election results were out, President Barack Oba- ised. McCains hawkish views on Iraq, according to
ma nally announced the blueprint for the with- many analysts, were among the main reasons why he
drawal of American forces from Iraq in keeping with lost the elections. Obama, after taking over the presi-
his campaign promise. But most Iraqis as well as dency, seems to be backtracking on most of the
many Americans are dissatised with the time frame promises he made on Iraq. He has now made it clear
involved in the withdrawal and the number of troops that ofcials responsible for the illegal war in Iraq
Obama wants to keep in Iraq. Many Americans had and the torture, assassinations and illegal detentions
voted for Obama believing that he would order a that followed will not be prosecuted. The theft of

F R O N T L I N E 4 9
APRIL 10, 2009

ing to the distribution of the bountiful

oil wealth in the north. Article 140
refers to the territorial disputes center-
ing around Kirkuk and other towns.
Kurdish ofcials have been repeatedly
demanding that Obama appoint a
special envoy to resolve their long-
standing disputes with the rest of Iraq.
Washington will, of course, use the
various crises erupting in the country
as a pretext to prolong the stay of the
U.S. forces. The Pentagon has anyway

planned for a long haul in Iraq. The
biggest U.S. embassy in the world, the
size of a city state, is being built inside
the green zone in Baghdad. This,
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA I RA Q I P RI M E M I N I S TE R Nouri along with 50 military bases in Iraq,
speaks to an audience of Marines in al-Maliki. The coalition his Dawa illustrates the U.S. commitment.
North Carolina, on February 27. He Party leads emerged as the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,
said the U.S. would withdraw all its strongest group in the provincial while campaigning for the Democratic
troops by the end of 2011. elections. nomination for the presidency, had
spoken about the need for permanent
over $50 billion of U.S. funds meant needed to ensure that Washingtons basing facilities in Iraq. She had en-
for the reconstruction of Iraq is also favourite candidate wins and also to dorsed the Pentagons plan for a per-
not being seriously investigated. keep out of the electoral fray parties manent air base in Kirkuk. The
Both the government and the op- that are opposed to the occupation, American media have reported that
position parties in Iraq had protested such as the Baath Party. the U.S. military establishment wants
against the Bush administrations plan Then there is the Kurdish problem, to stay on in Iraq for another 10 to 15
to prolong the occupation of Iraq. Last which threatens to spin out of control. years. The U.S. military is currently
year, the Bush administration had re- The Kurdish leadership in northern working overtime to expand the exist-
sorted to arm-twisting the Maliki go- Iraq, which has become the loyal sur- ing bases with longer runways that can
vernment to push through a Status of rogate of the U.S. in the region, is for a handle heavy bombers and transport
Forces Agreement (SOFA) that allows permanent troop presence in Iraq. It is planes. The U.S. already has a string of
a limited number of U.S. troops to stay an insurance policy for these leaders as bases in the region in states such as
on in Iraq until 2011. But owing to both Shia and Sunni parties are united Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman.
widespread protests in Iraq, SOFA will in their efforts to ensure that Iraq is It is obvious from Obamas latest
be put to a referendum next year. SO- not partitioned and that Baghdad re- pronouncements that Washington
FA, in all likelihood, is going to be tains control over the vast oil resources still hopes to retain Iraq as a military
rejected by the Iraqi people. In that in the north. The ghting over the oil- and political protectorate. Iraq, after
event, the U.S. will, in theory, have to rich city of Kirkuk, which is being all, is the second biggest producer of oil
withdraw all its troops post-haste from claimed by the Kurds, has escalated in in the world after Saudi Arabia. Ra-
Iraq. recent months. dan, the political committee speaking
But Prime Minister Malikis top In the words of the West Asia ex- for a number of Iraqi resistance
aides have apparently told Washing- pert Professor Juan Cole, it is a crisis groups, issued a statement condemn-
ton that they want the U.S. troops to waiting to happen. The Iraqi Kurds ing Obamas February speech. The
stay much longer at least until the are investing a lot of hope in President Iraqi people are disappointed in your
Iraqi armed forces are able to maintain Obamas promise of a responsible plan. They expect your troops to leave
internal security. The victory in the withdrawal from Iraq. Kurdish Prime our country in full and not in part, the
provincial polls has made Maliki the Minister Nechirvan Barzani has ex- statement said. There is no such thing
front-runner in the national elections, pressed the hope that the U.S. will as friendly occupation, the statement
which in all probability will be held in leave Iraq only after resolving the con- went on to add. It asked the U.S. Presi-
2010. Though the elections were tentious issues that have distanced the dent to vacate Iraq at a time suitable
scheduled for December this year, it is Kurds from other ethnic and denom- for our people and not suitable for your
likely to be postponed as an electoral inational groups in the country. He agents in the green zone.
law to govern the conduct of elections specically mentioned Article 140 of Meanwhile, the suffering of the
is still not in place. U.S. troops will be the Iraqi Constitution and issues relat- Iraqi people shows no signs of abating.

5 0 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

ican occupation began. Seventy per

cent of the children in Baghdad are not
able to attend school, and 40 per cent
of households in Iraq have no access to
clean water.
Most independent surveys have
concluded that more than a million
Iraqis lost their lives in the past six
years under the American occupation.
Iraqi ofcials have said that there are
between one million and two million
war widows and ve million orphans.
War widows clad in black begging for
alms on the roads of Baghdad is a com-
mon sight now. A large number of Ira-
qi children are now affected with post-
traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Ac-
cording to Dr. Haithi al Saidi, Dean of
the Psychological Research Centre at
Baghdad University, 28 per cent of
Baghdads children suffer from some
degree of PTSD. The statistics that are
coming out make grim reading. As a
result of an unjust war, one out of every
two Iraqi has been affected in some
way or the other.
But the Maliki governments pri-
orities appear to be different. In the
second week of March, a Baghdad
court sentenced Muntadhar al Zaidi,
the journalist who threw his shoes at
President Bush in December last year,
to three years in prison. Muntadhar,
who is now a household name in the
Arab world, had refused to apologise
for his act. He told the judge who gave
the verdict that his reaction was a
natural response to the occupation.
Muntadhar was tortured while await-
ing trial. His family members said that
they would not only appeal but would
also le torture charges against Bush
and Maliki in a human rights court

outside Iraq.
Muntadhars chief defence lawyer,
Ehiya al Sadi, said that his clients goal
A P OL ICE MA N I N S PE C T S the wreckage after a car bomb exploded in Kirkuk
had been to insult Bush for the pain
on March 11. Fighting over the oil-rich city, which is claimed by the Kurds, Iraqis have suffered. Khalil al Dulai-
has escalated in recent months. mi, who was Saddam Husseins de-
fence lawyer, has formed a team of 200
After the Obama announcement on One in every six Iraqi citizen is now a lawyers, including Americans, to ght
Iraq, there were suicide bombings in refugee. According to a UNICEF for Muntadhars release. Our defence
Mosul, Diyala and Baghdad, causing a (United Nations Childrens Fund) re- will be based on the fact that the U.S. is
lot of casualties. The condition of the port, only 5 per cent returned to their occupying Iraq, and resistance is legit-
refugee population, numbering more homes though 2008 was comparative- imate by all means, including shoes,
than 4.5 million, remains unchanged. ly the least violent year since the Amer- Dulaimi told the Iraqi media.

F R O N T L I N E 5 1
World Affairs APRIL 10, 2009

Emerging equation
A continuing recognition of East Asia as the prime theatre for global politics and
economics is evident in Obamas diplomacy. B Y P . S . S U R Y A N A R A Y A N A I N S I N G A P O R E

The engagement with East Asia ticular, leaves open Obamas nal strategic choices in
East Asia, especially in regard to the relative levels of
indicates the possibility of deeper importance he will give to Japan and China over the
long term.
nuances within the emerging U.S.- In a conventional view, Obama has in a big way
humoured Japan by engaging Aso rst in face-to-
Japan-China equation. Obamas face interactive talks. And, their summit was preced-
ed by Hillary Clintons visit to Japan as the rst
meeting with the Chinese Foreign destination of her foreign travels in her capacity as
the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat. Why did Aso,
Minister shows his recognition of seen by his critics in Japan itself as a leader slipping
towards a terminal decline in politics, nd favour
Chinas centrality to global affairs. with Obama? Surely, the reason can be traced to the
decades-long culture of close political ties between
BY receiving Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jie- their countries. And, the politics of personalities has
chi at the White House on March 12, United States had nothing to do with this reality.
President Barack Obama has signalled his recog- In a transcendental view in diplomacy, Obamas
nition of Chinas centrality to global affairs. It is talks with the Chinese Foreign Minister have result-
relatively rare for a U.S. President to engage in seri- ed in a rephrasing of the political mantra in the
ous discussions with the Foreign Minister of another U.S.-China engagement. The White House said
power instead of its chief executive. And, Yangs visit Obama and Yang discussed the overall state of
to Washington was in a large part designed to pre- bilateral relationship, emphasising the desire of both
pare the ground for Chinese President Hu Jintaos sides to strengthen cooperation and build a positive
talks with Obama on the sidelines of a summit of the and constructive U.S.-China relationship. There
new Group of Twenty (G-20) leaders in London in has been a subtle and hardly noticed shift from the
April. Thereby hangs a diplomatic tale in the mak- recent phraseology of cooperative and constructive
ing. ties to a positive and constructive relationship. It is,
Also relevant to this developing story is the nar- of course, too early to foresee how this new accent on
rative that the politically embattled Japanese Prime a positive dimension would translate into political
Minister Taro Aso met Obama at the White House realities.
on February 23, becoming his rst foreign guest. For As for the Obama-Yang meeting itself, there have
the new age American leader, it was a strategic been two signicant precedents involving India and
decision of staying the course with a long-time ally, a U.S. President. In the very early phase of the previ-
Japan. However, Obamas strategic choices in for- ous President George W. Bushs rst term in ofce,
eign policy, as distinct from a strategic decision or he dropped by during a meeting between his Na-
two already taken, are yet to crystallise. tional Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Indias
Indisputable in this evolving situation is Amer- External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, and escort-
icas continuing recognition of East Asia as the fast- ed him to the Oval Ofce for a conversation. That
emerging prime theatre for not only global politics event, which set off a buzz in some diplomatic circles,
but also economics, especially during the current happened before Bush began courting Pakistan in
crisis. Signicantly, Obama and his Secretary of the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.
State Hillary Clinton have already begun to try and More importantly, in April 2005, Bush received
co-opt not only Japan but also China as potential the then Indian External Affairs Minister Natwar
partners in the inevitable effort to ride out or roll Singh at the White House. And, that meeting set the
back the global economic crisis. This aspect, in par- stage for discussions which nally resulted in the

5 2 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

lateral talks on Korean

denuclearisation, conveyed to Yang
that the U.S. was becoming increas-
ingly mindful of the risks posed by
North Koreas missile programme.
As this is written, North Korea has
notied its intention to launch a satel-
lite for space development for
peaceful purposes. The U.S. and its
allies such as Japan and South Korea,
however, see this move as nothing but
a smokescreen for test-ring an inter-
continental ballistic missile capable of

delivering a nuclear warhead. Asked to
comment on this, Wen said on March
13 that the parties concerned must
bear in mind the bigger picture and
U .S. SE C R E T A R Y O F State Hillary Clinton greets Chinese Foreign Minister refrain from taking actions that may
Yang Jiechi in Washington on March 11. Yang held talks with President escalate tensions. He did not make a
Obama the next day. direct mention of the possible moves,
as of mid-March, by the U.S. or Japan
U.S.-India civil nuclear energy deal. hard in the future to avoid such in- to shoot down North Koreas long-
Now, regardless of Obamas prospec- cidents and to avoid this particular in- range rocket in its test-ight. Howev-
tive posture in relation to this deal, an cident having consequences that are er, Wens call for restraint was general-
interesting question is whether his unforeseen. On the issue of human ly viewed as Chinas line on this issue.
meeting with Yang will in fact lead to rights, a frequent topic in the U.S.- Overshadowing these and other is-
any dramatic initiative in U.S.-China China engagement, Obama has, in his sues of politics and long-term strategic
ties. The current signals are of a mixed conversation with Yang, expressed interests of the major powers is the
nature, though. hope there would be progress in the current global nancial and economic
dialogue between the Chinese govern- crises. According to the White House,
IMPROVING DIALOGUE ment and the Dalai Lamas represen- Yang and Obama agreed that China
A bilateral military incident, which tatives. Signicantly in this context, and the U.S. must work closely and
occurred on the eve of Yangs visit to Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao urgently, as two of the worlds leading
Washington, became a major talking minced no words while addressing the economies, to stabilise the global econ-
point. The White House said Obama international media in Beijing on omy by stimulating demand at home
stressed the importance of raising the March 13. and abroad and [to] get credit markets
level and frequency of the U.S.-China Wen said: Tibet is an inalienable owing. And, with China being a de-
military-to-military dialogue in order part of Chinas territory; and Tibet- veloping economy still, Obama want-
to avoid future incidents. Shorn of the related issues are totally and complete- ed the development divide in the world
contentious details, the incident in ly Chinas internal affairs and brook no trade talks to be suitably addressed.
question was the perceived harass- foreign interference. We always say On a different but related front,
ment of a U.S. Navy ship, Impeccable, that the Dalai Lama is not a simple Tokyo is trying to shore up its own
by a few Chinese vessels along the in- religious gure but is actually a politi- relevance to the crisis-hit world by
ternational waters of the South China cal exile. And, we have full justication basking in the early sunshine of Oba-
Sea in early March. for this position. The so-called exile mas Japan-friendly diplomacy. Privy
The Chinese Foreign Ministry government situated in Dharamshala to the nuances of the Obama-Aso sum-
quickly asserted that the story of the is a de facto theocratic government; mit, Kazuo Kodama, a top Japanese
U.S. side is totally untrue and unac- and this illegal government is under ofcial, told Frontline that the prima-
ceptable. Beijing maintained that the the direct leadership of the Dalai La- cy of the Tokyo-Washington alliance
U.S. surveillance vessel was operat- ma. deserves this kind of a gesture from
ing in Chinas exclusive economic zone A key issue that the U.S. wants to the new U.S. leader. The two leaders,
without our permission at the time of co-opt China for is North Koreas de- he emphasised, reafrmed the im-
the incident. Commenting on this af- nuclearisation and its rollback of a col- portance of the alliance as the corner-
ter her talks with Yang in Washington lateral ballistic missile programme. stone of their respective foreign
on March 11, Hillary emphasised that Obama, acknowledging Chinas im- policies.
they agreed that both sides must work portant role as the Chair of the multi- About the ongoing strategic re-

F R O N T L I N E 5 3
APRIL 10, 2009

alignment of political forces on the donesian ofcial, Dino Patti Djalal, and regional issues. What these
global stage, Kodama said the two that his country would like to reap the emerging critics miss, though, is the
leaders agreed that the credibility of benets of its potential status as an gradual erosion of U.S. primacy in eco-
the U.S. dollar as the key [global] cur- environmental superpower. nomic and military spheres.
rency should be maintained. It was At the Association of South East Several security-political experts
also agreed that the U.S. dollar-based Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat in such as Robert D. Kaplan have, howev-
[international] nancial system Jakarta, Hillary conveyed the new U.S. er, begun to see what Kaplan describes
should be maintained. Now, reces- administrations resolve to go through as Americas elegant decline at this
sion-battered Japan is still the worlds a process of acceding to the 10-nation stage. According to him, the U.S. has
second largest economy, behind the blocs Treaty of Amity and Coopera- begun to hit the trajectory of such a
ailing U.S. tion. Such accession is a prerequisite decline by leveraging the growing sea
Several other aspects of Obamas for membership to the 16-nation East power of allies such as India and Japan
initial engagement with East Asia, as Asia Summit, which now includes Chi- to balance against China. It is not
evident from Hillarys visit to this re- na and Japan as also India and Austra- clear at this stage whether the Obama
gion in February and from this corre- lia. There are other criteria as well, but administration would follow its prede-
spondents conversations with the accession is the central one. cessor in looking at India as a budding
diplomats and ofcials, indicate the The visit to Seoul by Hillary, dur- ally. Also unclear now is the likely
possibility of deeper nuances within ing the same East Asia tour, was aimed response of India to such a perception,
the now-emerging U.S.-Japan-China at reassuring an old ally like South especially after a new government as-
trilateral equation. Korea about continued U.S. support. sumes ofce in New Delhi in a few
While in Tokyo in February, Hil- Such support would have two political months time. And, from the U.S.
lary and her Japanese counterpart Hi- coordinates the shared values of de- standpoint, there are political uncer-
rofumi Nakasone noted the mocracy and the like, at one level, and tainties in Japan, too.
importance of their two countries en- security-related reassurances from the In this perspective, the possibility
gaging South Korea, Australia and In- U.S. in the specic context of North of a U.S.-Japan-China trilateral equa-
dia, all of which share [certain] Koreas nuclear and missile pro- tion within the new G-20 forum, or
universal values. However, neither grammes. even outside it, can have three leader-
Hillary nor Nakasone spoke of any Hillarys follow-up talks with her ship dimensions. A relevant and sig-
need for a blueprint of cooperation Chinese counterpart Yang and Presi- nicant nuance was suggested by
among these ve countries, on a pri- dent Hu in Beijing in February itself Nobel laureate Amartya Sen while an-
ority basis, in the present global cir- were signicant for an unusual reason. swering a question from this corre-
cumstances. To this extent, this For the rst time, the U.S. indicated spondent in Singapore recently: I
specic idea does not seem to have the possibility of a qualitatively new dont think there are any chauffeurs to
own high, although it may acquire phase in bilateral ties. This, as hinted the world economy. Noting that Chi-
resonance at a later date, especially if at by Hillary through some political na and India have managed to avoid
Australian Prime Minister Kevin hedging on issues such as human the worst of the recession so far,
Rudds idea of an Asia-Pacic Com- rights in China and the Tibet ques- Amartya Sen emphasised he wouldnt
munity gets seriously discussed by tion, translates into a practical propo- say that they will be driving the world
world leaders. sition as follows. The U.S. may now be economy.
willing to shelve the divisive issues, as Within these parameters of real-
WINDOW FOR WASHINGTON perceived by either side, and engage ism, Washington may have to be the
Hillarys subsequent talks in Jakarta China on an equal platform over the leader, under the framework of a po-
with her Indonesian counterpart Ha- main global challenges of a worsening tential U.S.-Japan-China trilateral
san Wirajuda and President Susilo economic recession and climate equation, to address the current global
Bambang Yudhoyono brought into fo- change. economic crisis. And, Japan will prob-
cus two other elements of the evolving After his talks with Hillary on that ably take the key initiatives within any
Obama foreign policy. First, Obamas occasion, Yang said that China-U.S. such trilateral core group to address
U.S. is keen to explore the possibility of relations would make greater pro- climate change challenges. China, of
engaging Indonesia and assessing its gress in the new era as long as both course, is seen as the proactive player
potential as a window for the West, respect and accommodate each oth- for engineering a realistic end to
more narrowly for Washington, on the ers core interests. Some budding crit- North Koreas nuclear arms and mis-
wider Islamic bloc. Secondly, Obamas ics of the Obama era tend to see sile programmes.
U.S. is no less eager to have Indonesia Hillarys acquiescence in the primacy A bigger issue beyond any such po-
as a partner in addressing climate of core interests as a sign of U.S. tential trilateral equation is the one
change issues. Signicant in this con- failure to lead and demand that other relating to power-sharing in a possible
text is the recent remark by a top In- countries follow its line on all global multipolar world of the

5 4 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009
World Affairs/Sudan

Politics of a warrant
The International Criminal Courts warrant against President Bashir of Sudan is
the rst one it has issued for the arrest of a serving head of state. B Y J O H N C H E R I A N

Many Arab and African leaders THE arrest warrant issued by the International
Criminal Court (ICC) on March 4 against President
have criticised the ICC and rallied Omar al-Bashir of Sudan for crimes against human-
ity and war crimes in Darfur is viewed as a dangerous
round Bashir. Only the U.S. and precedent by many in the international community.
It is the rst time that this kind of a warrant has been
the E.U. have expressed support issued against a serving head of state, that too under
such controversial circumstances. The warrant came
for the ICCs decision. even as the Government of Sudan and the important
guerilla factions of Darfur were taking strides to-
wards securing a peace deal in the battle-scarred
The government in Khartoum puts the death toll
in Darfur since ghting erupted in 2003 at around
10,000. The ICC and many human rights groups put
the toll at around 300,000. The ICC has no powers
to enforce its arrest warrants, but those indicted by it
can be arrested on the territory of those states that
have signed up to the ICC statute. Luis Moreno-
Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor who rst called for an
ICC warrant to be issued last year, said that Sudan
was obliged under international law to carry out the
arrest on its territory. Sudan is not a member of the
African nations rallied round Sudan as Bashir
struck a deant posture. Huge crowds rallied in
support of their President in the capital, Khartoum,
and other cities in the northern part of the country.
We are telling the colonialists that we will not sub-
mit, Bashir told cheering supporters in Khartoum.
The President urged his countrymen to carry out a
jehad against the indels, pointing out that arrest
warrants had not been issued by the ICC against the
Israeli leaders who committed crimes against hu-
manity through the recent attack on Gaza.
Many Arab and African leaders have criticised
the ICC and voiced their support for the Sudanese
President. China too has criticised the move by the

ICC. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said

that his country opposed any decision that impeded
peace in Darfur. China expresses its regrets and
worry over the arrest warrant for the Sudan Presi-
dent issued by the ICC, a Chinese Foreign Ministry
PR E S I D E N T O M A R A L- B A S H I R addressing a statement said. The spokesman also urged the Unit-
gathering in the North Darfur state capital, Al ed Nations Security Council to respect calls by the
Fashr, on March 8. African Union (A.U.), the Arab League and the Non-

F R O N T L I N E 5 5
APRIL 10, 2009

Aligned Movement and call on the help out as it is a veto-wielding Secur-

ICC not to hear the case for the time ity Council member.
being. India, which has substantial In July 2002, the Security Council
business interests in Sudan, especially gave U.S. troops a 12-month exemp-
in the hydrocarbon sector, has been tion from prosecution by the ICC that
non-committal on the issue despite its was renewable every year. The Bush
long-standing ties with the country. administration had threatened to re-
Only the United States and the Eu- move its peacekeepers from Bosnia if
ropean Union have expressed support the exemption was not granted. But
for the ICCs momentous decision. The the Security Council refused to renew
U.S., China, Russia, India and Israel the exemption after the atrocities com-
are among the countries that have not mitted by U.S. troops in Iraq came to
joined the ICC since its creation in light in 2004.
2002. In fact, the U.S. under George
W. Bush was one of the most vocal A.U. EMERGENCY MEETING
critics of the ICC, but because of Wash- The A.U., which held an emergency
ingtons decades-old enmity with meeting after the ICC warrant was is-
Khartoum, it did not cast its veto in the sued, stated that it would try to stop
Security Council and allowed the ICC the execution of the warrant. The A.U.
to go ahead with the prosecution of again revert to using military force in spokesman said that the organisation
Bashir. Darfur and that the peace deal with was deeply concerned at the far-reac-
Sudan since the late 1980s has tak- southern Sudan, which has been hold- hing consequences of the act as it
en a principled stand on many foreign ing for the last three years, may also came at a critical juncture in the proc-
policy issues. It opposed the rst Gulf unravel. ess to promote lasting peace in Sudan.
War and has been a vocal supporter of General elections are scheduled to Moses Wetangula, Kenyan Minister of
the Palestinian cause. Sudan was tar- be held in Sudan this year, to be fol- Foreign Affairs, said that the oper-
geted by American cruise missiles in lowed by a referendum in the south of ations of the ICC were very suspect
the aftermath of the terrorist attacks the country on self-determination. and that some racial undertones
on U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar The timing of the arrest warrant could could be detected in the manner in
es Salaam in 1998. The ICC is now seen derail these two democratic exercises. which the ICC handled African issues.
by many Sudanese as an instrument Since the issue of the warrant, the Since its creation, the ICC has focussed
being used by the U.S. to get rid of a joint U.N./A.U. peacekeeping force, almost exclusively on African leaders
government it despises. known as UNAMID (United Nations- and warlords.
On the other hand, the U.S. has African Union Mission in Darfur), has The A.U. meet was preceded by
been using all its inuence to see that come under re. Thirteen foreign re- that of the Arab League. The Arab
Israeli leaders escape international lief agencies were expelled from Dar- League emphasised in a statement
justice. For that matter, the U.S. itself fur in the rst week of March. They that the need for a peaceful settlement
has committed far greater war crimes. were providing 4.7 million people in of the Darfur issue was much more
The invasion of Iraq led to the death of the region with food, water and med- important than the ICCs arrest war-
more than 1.3 million people. The ical aid. Thousands of people continue rant. Arab League Secretary-General
highest estimates of casualties in Dar- to stay in camps and are totally depen- Amr Moussa met with Bashir after the
fur amount to only one-fourth of the dent on international agencies for warrant was issued. He said that the
casualties inicted by U.S. forces in sustenance. ICC decision had provoked anger
Iraq. In the so-called global war The spokesman for Egyptian Presi- within the Arab League.
against terror, the U.S. has routinely dent Hosni Mubarak said that the ICC The Sudanese government and the
resorted to torture, abductions and de- decision would have dangerous conse- main rebel group in Darfur, the Justice
tention without trial. quences for the Darfur region in par- and Equality Movement (JEM),
The Security Council has the right ticular and Sudan in general. The signed a goodwill agreement in the
to defer the warrant against Bashir. decision, he said, smacked of politic- third week of February at a meeting
The governments in the region are isation and selectivity. African and hosted by Qatar. Both sides pledged to
speaking about the dangerous impli- Arab states have been lobbying the Se- implement condence-building mea-
cations of the arrest warrant. Ofcials curity Council to defer the case against sures (CBMs) in a bid to resolve the
in the U.S. and in the E.U. headquar- Bashir indenitely so that a solution to conict. Within Sudan, only opposi-
ters in Brussels, Belgium, have also the conict in Darfur could be expedit- tion leader Hassan al-Turabi and the
expressed their apprehension that the ed. China, which has intensive political Darfuri rebel groups supported the
Sudanese government could once and economic links with Sudan, could ICCs move.

5 6 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

BA SH IR S S UPPO R T E R S H O LD I N G pictures of chief International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo KHALED DESOUKI/AFP
with the words, in Arabic, Liar, Liar, Traitor as they listen to Bashir on his visit to Al Fashr.

Turabi, who was released from acknowledged as one of the foremost The ruling National Congress Par-
prison a few days after the arrest war- Islamist intellectuals of his time. ty leadership seems to be fully behind
rant was issued, has held on to his view When this correspondent met Turabi Bashir as he faces one of his biggest
that the Sudanese President is moral- in Khartoum after he was released challenges.
ly culpable for the conict in Darfur. from one of his periodic stints in jail Sadiq al-Mahdi, Turabis brother-
He urged Bashir to surrender to the three years ago, he was quite forthright in-law and a former Prime Minister of
ICC in order to save Sudan from more in his views on Darfur and related is- Sudan, spoke out in support of the be-
international sanctions and political sues. He said that Darfur became part leaguered President though he was
turmoil. Turabi was Bashirs mentor at of Sudan only after the country came ousted in an Islamist-inspired military
one time and was instrumental in his under British tutelage and that it was a coup in 1989 led by none other than
coming to power in a military coup in separate administrative unit under Ot- Bashir. Mahdi, the leader of the Na-
the late 1980s. Turabi, who is now 76, toman rule. The JEM leadership is tional Umma Party, said that the ICC
was the eminence grise of the regime known to have close links with Turabi warrant had endangered the sover-
until he fell out with Bashir over ide- and his Popular National Congress eignty and unity of the country and
ological issues. Party, which is the main opposition that it was the duty of the Sudanese
The Sorbonne-educated Turabi is party in Sudan. people to unite on the issue.

F R O N T L I N E 5 7
World Affairs APRIL 10, 2009

Spreading gloom
What Obama has presented is a salvage operation and not a stimulus that can
break the 15 p.c. ceiling on government civilian consumption and investment.

Beyond some minimal level, real nal triumph over poverty than ever before in the
history of any land. Not long after, the job cuts
estate interests oppose public began and, eventually, about a third of the American
workforce was unemployed. Not far from Coolidges
housing; private health care interests retirement home, in Northampton, 25 starving chil-
dren broke into a luncheon for war veterans, and
oppose public health care; insurance vans of police came to drive them away. Of such
hubris and suffering is tragedy made.
companies oppose public insurance; The current pace of economic and social collapse
in the U.S. is staggering. Since January 1, 2009, as
private education interests oppose many as 1.2 million people have lost their jobs. Al-
most 5.4 million people go each week to collect their
public education; and so on. dwindling unemployment benets; a year ago the
number was 2.6 million. This is the highest gure
When more and more people are thrown out of since 1967. The Bureau of Labour Statistics an-
work, unemployment results. nounced that the ofcial unemployment rate now
President Calvin Coolidge, in the 1920s. stood at 8.1 per cent, while the underemployed rate
DOWN the street from where I live is the home of (which includes those who have stopped looking for
Calvin Coolidge, the President of the United States work, and who involuntarily work part-time) was
from 1923 to 1929. Associated with the laissez-faire now at 14.8 per cent.
Roaring Twenties, Coolidges presidency is regarded The few job openings are now swamped with
as the harbinger of the Great Depression. Against applications from overqualied people. Food banks,
regulations and taxation, Coolidge closely followed hospital emergency rooms and homeless shelters are
the instructions of his Treasury Secretary, the banker oversubscribed. The mortgage crisis created a burst
Andrew Mellon. Credit was Coolidges credo: The of foreclosures. Joining these victims of the mort-
uncivilised make little progress because they have gage casino are newly unemployed people, who can-
few desires. The inhabitants of our country are stim- not pay their mortgages. Foreclosure lings rose by
ulated to new wants in all directions. Sinclair Lewis 30 per cent in February 2009 from February 2008.
Babbit (1922), the novel of that era, portrayed this The numbers are doomed to get worse. The La-
world of goods to be bought, these standard ad- bour Department reports that productivity rates
vertised wares toothpaste, socks, tires, cameras, (output per hour of work) fell by 0.4 per cent, which
instantaneous hot-water heaters [these] were his means that workers report to their jobs but there is
symbols and proofs of excellence; at rst the signs, little for them to do. The Commerce Department has
then the substitutes for joy and passion and wis- added to this gloomy scenario with its report that
dom. inventories fell by 1.1 per cent, so retail sales are
It was in this spirit of an abundance of goods and down to the bone.
desire for these goods that Coolidges successor to Kim Whelan of Wachovia told Bloomberg:
the presidency, Herbert Hoover (1929-1933), said as Wholesalers are trying to cut inventories as fast as
he took ofce: We in America today are nearer to the they can but its hard to keep up with the pace of
declines in sales. The inventory numbers are reec-
tive of extremely weak demand and the severity of
Letter from America the recession. More pink slips are probably being
printed as this column goes to press.
VIJAY PRASHAD A chill blows across the Atlantic. The Obama
administration called upon Europe to spend more

5 8 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009


California, where the unemployment rate is 22.6 per cent, the highest in the U.S., a volunteer gives
AT E L C E N T R O ,
people a monthly food handout distributed by the Imperial Valley Food Bank, on March 13.
on a global stimulus plan. Talking to will follow as the global economy de- ing to the World Bank), a sum far in
The New York Times on board Air clines (the World Bank estimated that excess of the capacity of the regional
Force One on March 6, President Ba- global industrial production fell by 20 European Bank for Reconstruction
rack Obama cautioned that if the Eu- per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008, and Development. The IMFs New Ar-
ropeans did not do more, then what and the International Monetary Fund, rangements to Borrow will be the
youre seeing now is weaknesses in Eu- IMF, believes that output in advanced source of outlay, if the Europeans ac-
rope that are actually greater than industrial countries will fall by 2 per tually send the IMF a cheque worth
some of the weaknesses here, bounc- cent in 2009). their promises (Japan already turned
ing back and having an impact on our in $100 billion in mid-November
markets. NARROWING GAP 2008).
Jean-Claude Juncker, a veteran The gap between Obama and the Eu- The IMF is currently sitting on
Belgian politician, now head of the Eu- ropeans is not that wide. At the Febru- $141 billion (as opposed to $202 bil-
rogroup and Finance Minister of Bel- ary 22 meeting in Berlin, leaders of the lion in late 2007), an amount that is far
gium, red back: Recent American European countries agreed on a two- less than the already articulated needs.
appeals insisting Europeans make an pronged assault on the crisis: rst, for The Obama administration is also
added budgetary effort were not to our a more robust global regulation of keen on more regulation and more in-
liking, given that we are not prepared hedge funds and other private pools of fusion of money into the banks, al-
to go further in the recovery packages capital which may pose a systematic though it is not clear as of now if it will
we have put forward. We take the view risk, and second, for more capital to put its stimulus money towards a glob-
that we dont need to make a further be funnelled into the IMF, largely to al rescue plan. The pressure on the
effort for the moment. We mustnt pile help stabilise the region known as administration to kick-start the U.S.
decit upon decit. emerging Europe (the Balkan and economy is so great that it is politically
Washington retracted, but the Baltic states, central and eastern Eu- impossible for the stimulus money to
problems remain, and they will have rope). go to the IMF or the World Bank. The
an effect on the April 2 meeting of the This emerging Europe is in ur- Obama team hopes that the Euro-
G-20 as well as the coordination that gent need of 120 billion euros (accord- peans and the Japanese will cover the

F R O N T L I N E 5 9
APRIL 10, 2009

omy. Asked to comment on the top

cost pressures, the CEOs pointed to
the normal ones that CEOs complain
about (labour costs at 18 per cent, liti-
gation costs at 12 per cent, and materi-
al expenditures at 26 per cent). But
they also pointed to three areas of in-
terest to the Obama agenda: pension
or retirement costs (17 per cent), ener-
gy costs (12 per cent) and health care
expenditures (15 per cent).
The Roundtables leader, Howard
McGraw, of the publishing conglom-
erate McGraw Hill, said: We are look-
ing forward to sitting down with
members of both political parties to
work towards a meaningful reform of
our health care system and a more ef-
cient and sustainable energy future.
The stimulus-bailout pushed by
the Obama administration pleased the
Roundtable since the money went to-
IMF, while it tries to restart demand limit of around 15 per cent of the gross wards banks and nancial institutions
within the U.S. domestic product (GDP). but not to the foreclosed homeowners
The Europeans and the U.S. differ In 1938, the gure was 14.5 per or the unemployed. The banks have
on the scale of governmental interven- cent and in 2007 it was 14.6 per cent. still not begun to unload credit, but are
tion in the domestic economy. A laid- In a recent issue of Monthly Review, using the money to consolidate their
off European worker remains on vari- editor John Bellamy Foster and Ro- power by buying other banks (as Coo-
ous forms of national health plans, has bert McChesney wrote: The reasons lidges Treasury Secretary, Andrew
decent educational benets and con- for this are straightforward. Beyond Mellon, put it: In a depression, assets
tinues to collect income support. This some minimal level, real estate inter- return to their rightful owners). The
is not available to the laid-off U.S. ests oppose public housing; private Roundtable has every reason to be
worker, who will have no access to health care interests and medical pro- pleased with Obamas administration.
health care, faces astronomical educa- fessionals oppose public health care; But the contradictions continue to
tional costs, and will only have time- insurance companies oppose public unravel. On March 12, Obama deli-
bound unemployment benets. insurance programmes; private edu- vered a lecture at the Roundtable, say-
cation interests oppose public educa- ing that the problems in the nancial
THE 15 PER CENT CEILING tion; and so on. The big exceptions to markets, as acute and urgent as they
Obamas administration wants to ease this are highways and prisons within are, are only a part of what threatens
the burden on the worker and remove civilian government spending, togeth- our economy. The long-term
the costs of health care and retirement er with military spending. threats, he said, are the cost of our
off the books of the employer. In a 1966 What we have from the Obama ad- health care and our oil addiction, our
book, economists Paul Sweezy and ministration, then, is a salvage oper- education decit, and our scal def-
Paul Baran showed that the U.S. reco- ation and not a stimulus capable of icit.
vered from the Great Depression of the breaking the 15 per cent ceiling on go- In Congress, meanwhile, Republi-
1930s by the massive expansion of fed- vernment civilian consumption and cans balked at the expanded agenda,
eral spending for the Second World investment. Anything more than that which they have undertaken to block
War. The New Deal conducted a sal- would require a political change, so- with all their ability. What Obama has
vage operation to x what had been mething that neither the Democrats promised is not so much to raise the 15
broken by the Gilded Age, when Coo- nor the Republicans can stomach. per cent ceiling but to provide a battle-
lidge was President. New Deal spend- In early December 2008, the Busi- eld over that upper limit. Obama has
ing was unable to be a stimulus. ness Roundtable (a 40-year-old orga- cracked open the space for a debate.
Powerful interests refused to allow a nisation of the main U.S. corporations, Whether the people are able to forge
pliant Roosevelt administration to in- with total revenues of $5 trillion) re- the social will to confront those who
crease government civilian consump- leased a survey of its member-CEOs, swear by the 15 per cent ceiling is to be
tion and investment beyond an outer which revealed anxiety about the econ- seen.

6 0 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009
World Affairs/Spain

Lost identities
A judge orders an investigation into the disappearance of children forcibly
taken from left-wing families in the early 1940s. B Y V I C T O R I A B U R N E T T


ANTONIO PR A D A G I R O N with the yellowed family book, the ofcial booklet in which the Giron family members are
listed, in the hamlet of Lombillo de los Barrios. The name of his stolen brother Jesus is not registered in it.

Hundreds of children were taken ful rst years of General Francisco Francos 36-year
dictatorship of Spain, Jesus was taken from her
from families that had supported shortly after his birth to be baptised. She never saw
him again.
General Francisco Francos To her last, my mother bore the anguish of not
knowing what had happened to Jesus. She yearned
Republican opponents during the to meet the child that they had stolen, said Antonio
Prada Giron, 69, the oldest child of Emilia Giron,
Spanish Civil War. The children who died in 2007 at the age of 95.
Sifting through family documents and photo-
were adopted or sent to religious graphs in the slate-roofed cottage where his mother
once lived, Prada said his parents were persecuted in
schools and state-run homes. the years after Franco took power by the police, who
were hunting for his uncle, a fugitive guerilla. Pradas
THE truth, if ever it emerges, will come too late parents, who farmed the vine-covered hills around
for Emilia Giron. For 65 years the hard-bitten moth- the northwestern Spanish hamlet of Lombillo de los
er of seven ached to know what had become of her Barrios, were jailed when he was two. His mother
son Jesus. Born in the early 1940s during the venge- gave birth to Jesus soon afterward.

F R O N T L I N E 6 1
APRIL 10, 2009

PRADA GIRON AT the grave of his mother Emilia in Lombillo. For 65 years she ached to know what had happened to
her lost son.
The story is part of a dark and long- or who were suspected of ties to left- Franco-era graves. To steal a child
overlooked chapter in Spains history wing groups. The children were adopt- and take away his identity thats what
of the repressive decades under Franco ed or sent to religious schools and Franco did to the country as a whole.
which has drawn fresh attention since state-run homes. In his 152-page court order, Judge
November 2008, when Judge Baltasar Some were baptised with new Garzon wrote, There was a legalised
Garzon ordered provincial judges to names, and their birth records were disappearance of minors, who lost
investigate the disappearance of chil- hidden or destroyed, they say. Others, their identity, and whose number re-
dren taken from left-wing families as sent into exile during the war by the mains uncertain. He suggested that
part of an effort to purge Francos Republicans and then brought back by there could be thousands of lost chil-
Spain of Marxist inuence. Franco, were given new identities. dren, but historians say that gure is
Historians and associations that In a sense, this is the most symbol- inated.
represent Francos victims say hun- ic crime of the Franco era, said Emilio There were denitely kidnap-
dreds of children were taken from Silva, head of the Association for the pings of children in prisons, and abus-
families who had supported Francos Recovery of Historical Memory, an or- es. But we really dont know how
Republican opponents during the ganisation that has excavated the re- many, said Angela Cenarro Lagunas,
Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939 mains of hundreds of people from a professor of modern history at the

6 2 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

mies. Francos top military psycholo-

gist, Antonio Vallejo Nagera, claimed
that Spain could be saved from Mar-
xism by isolating children from Re-
publican parents. A 1940 decree
allowed the state to take children into
custody if their moral formation was
at risk.
Their logic was that the solution
lay in separating children from their
mothers, Vinyes said.
Catholic schools and the welfare
system known as Social Aid became a
machine for political reorientation.
Social Aid children led a life of fascist
doctrine, harsh discipline and Catholic
ritual, Angela Cenarro said.
According to Vinyes, nearly 31,000
children were registered as being in

state custody at some point between G E N E R AL FR AN CI S CO FR A N C O,
1945 and 1954, the majority of them whose repressive regime tried to
from Republican families. For many, it purge Spain of Marxist inuence.
was because their parents were impris-
oned or executed; for some, it was be- Association for the Recovery of Histor-
cause their families could not support ical Memory, said judges could open
them. adoption registers and lists of children
Uxenu Ablana, 79, said because of in Social Aid homes and religious
his leftist background he was torment- schools.
ed in the Catholic and welfare homes Prada, who settled in France in
where he lived between the ages of six 1958 but returns each winter to Lom-

and 18. Ablana, a retired machinery billo, said nding his brother would
salesman who grew up in the Asturian help close wounds.
village of Pravia in Spains north, went It has left a hole in my life, know-
into state custody after the police ing that I have a brother, not knowing
killed his mother and jailed his father where he is, whether he was brought
for collaborating with the Republi- up by good people, he said, ngering
cans. He said that in the homes he was the yellowed family book, the ofcial
named Eugenio Alvarez, the Spanish booklet in which the Giron family
version of his Asturian name. members are listed. Jesus is not regis-
They called me child of a red, tered there.
University of Zaragoza. Ricard Vinyes, communist, devil, Ablana said by tele- When Prada was about 10, he and
a professor of modern history at the phone. He recalled being made to spit- his grandmother made the 290-kilo-
University of Barcelona and the author polish 80 pairs of shoes in a broom metre trip to Salamanca, where his
of a book on female prisoners of the cupboard. It was as if my life ended mother had been imprisoned, to look
era, said documents and oral testimo- the day I went to Social Aid. for Jesus. They found nothing, and
nies indicated that hundreds of chil- Now that Judge Garzon has or- guards at the orphanage threatened to
dren lost their identities when they dered the investigation into lost chil- send his grandmother to jail if she per-
were separated from their imprisoned dren, associations representing sisted in her search.
mothers. Francos victims say they believe that To think, I might have walked by
The case has some echoes of Ar- they may locate some of them. The him once in the street without know-
gentinas dirty war of the 1970s and judge instructed provincial courts, in ing, he said, his eyes reddening. Even
1980s, when children of murdered dis- January, to collect DNA (deoxyribonu- with the new investigation, he said, the
sidents were secretly stolen and often cleic acid) samples from several aged chances of nding Jesus are minute.
adopted by military families. Vinyes or sick Spaniards searching for family Its like looking for a needle in a hays-
said Franco was open about his project members. tack.
to re-educate the children of his ene- Fernando Magan, a lawyer for the New York Times News Service

F R O N T L I N E 6 3
Travel APRIL 10, 2009

A walk through
Highgate Cemetery
The winding trail to Karl Marxs
cemetery is down a large wood with
unusual burial sites and Victorian
architecture. T E X T & P H O T O G R A P H S

The forest, lit up by wild owers and

occasionally by the sun, is dense
enough to conceal many graves
completely, but it is worth the
trouble to hack through the burrs
and the brambles to see some
unusual gravestones.
ON one of the highest hills (131 metres) in north
London, at the brim of a carefully cultivated leafy
unruliness, stands a simple granite obelisk support-
ing a bust of Karl Marx. This is where Marx is buried.
His grave is in Highgate Cemetery, which sprawls on
either side of a brick-walled curving lane.
This is the quietest place in that noisy city, not
even a mufed murmur of that great big city comes
through. Even if the noise did get past the spacious
Waterlow Park adjacent, the thick forest inside the
cemetery would snuff it out. The 37 acres (14.973
hectares) of the East and West Cemetery, which
border both sides of the undulating Swains Lane, is
on top of Highgate Hill, which many centuries ago owers
had a toll booth to collect tax from traders entering every day at Karl Marxs
and leaving London. grave, the most perennially
By early 19th century, all the church cemeteries popular at Highgate
in London were so full that bodies had to be buried Cemetery.
on top of each other with the topmost one being just
a few inches below the surface. In those days, people
in England believed that, to arise on Resurrection

6 4 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

F R O N T L I N E 6 5
APRIL 10, 2009

Day, one had to be buried. In 1832, the companied by sombre musicians beat- scientists, and thinkers. Common peo-
British Parliament authorised seven ing time, were a regular sight ple too were buried here.
new burial grounds to accommodate attracting many spectators in this pop- Robert Arthur Thomas (1825
the crush. These were known as the ular cemetery. Within its sylvan pe- -1903), a useful cricketer, who played
Magnicent Seven. Highgate West rimeter are the remains of the rich, the in the rst Test match against Austra-
was one of them and the most popular. famous, and the ordinary of the Victor- lia in 1880 and then became a success-
Its rst recipients were in 1839. Since ian era. ful umpire, lies in anonymity in a
then, about 170,000 have been buried They include adventurers, actors, weed-covered grave on the southern
in 52,600 graves on both the East and aristocrats, authors, cricketers, doc- side of the Eastern Cemetery. Howev-
West Cemeteries. tors, explorers, journalists, engineers, er, the best attended funeral was that
Slowly moving stately hearses with magicians, musicians, newspaper of 39-year-old Thomas Sayer in 1856,
caparisoned horses and a panoply of owners, philosophers, poets, priests, who was the last champion of bare-
well-dressed hired mourners, often ac- politicians, revolutionaries, refugees, sted boxing of a then very violent

6 6 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

saw funeral processions with hired, well-dressed mourners and musicians. But by the 1960s,
when cremations were legal, the ornate funerals stopped and the East and West Cemeteries did not have money for
their upkeep. The West Cemetery was closed in 1975, though the dead are still interred in the eastern side.

London. By the early 1960s, when cre- East Cemetery was preserved better. It London. Both were impressive.
mations were legal, processions of or- is now closed for visits during funerals. The highlight of the 20-acre West
nate funerals stopped and both The older West Cemetery was once Cemetery is the gloomy colonnaded
cemeteries did not have the money for part of a mansion owned by Sir Wil- Egyptian Avenue leading to the Circle
their upkeep. liam Ashurst, Mayor of London in of Lebanon, built around an ancient
In 1975, the West Cemetery, which 1693. After the cemetery was conse- glowering cypress tree, a remnant of
had become a maintained wilder- crated in 1839, Victorians came from Ashursts garden, with catacombs
ness, was closed altogether as it was miles around to enjoy the architecture skirting the edges. The view of London
too expensive for funerals, and the of the tombs and get a birds eye view of was somewhat deliberately blocked

F R O N T L I N E 6 7
APRIL 10, 2009

and spoiled later by the brash and

quixotic Julius Beer (1836-1880),
founder of The Observer. Fed up with
the hypocrisy of London society, which
shunned him even after he, born a Jew,
became a Christian, Beer built a huge
mausoleum with a garish gold and
brilliant blue ceiling. Also buried in
this cemetery is Henry Hugh Arm-
stead (1828-1905), who made the gro-
tesque marble sculptures in the Beer
Despite such abundant opulence,
the most perennially popular grave is
No.32 in the East Cemetery. It is of
Marx, who is buried here along with
his wife Jenny, who predeceased him
by 15 months, his housekeeper (Hele-
na Demuth), a daughter and a grand-
THE G R A V E O F son. Every day, there are fresh owers
Herbert Spencer, the on his celebrated grave. His relevance
famous English to modern times continues with his
philosopher and books still selling fast, even in the
economist, carries only United States.
his name on a big Strangely, of all his quotations this
simple stone. one is the most popular on websites in
the U.S. at the moment: Owners of
capital will stimulate the working class
THE G R A V E O F to buy more and more of expensive
Tom Wakeeld, goods, houses and technology, push-
a writer, is in contrast ing them to take more and more ex-
to many garish ones pensive credits, until their debt
and is unusual. The becomes unbearable. The unpaid debt
headstone carries will lead to bankruptcy of banks, which
a caricature and will have to be nationalised.
refers to Wakeeld Marx is buried in the sunniest por-
as Mother. tion. It is in the north-north-east side
of the cemetery, near a bend leading to
which is a tarred road from the Swains
Lane entrance. Marx was originally
buried at the southern end of Highgate
Cemetery in a rather obscure, uncon-
T H E G R AVE OF secrated corner. There was not even a
Sello Moeti (1953- gravestone in those days. Lenin was a
1988), a brilliant regular visitor when he stayed in Lon-
militant member of don in 1903. Rabindranath Tagore,
the African National who stayed in the adjacent Vale of
Congress, is found Health (Hampstead Heath) in 1912,
at Marxs corner. used to walk to this cemetery.
This corner is the In the 1940s, the British Commu-
resting place for nist Party moved the remains of Marx
many who chose to and his family to its present prominent
oppose injustice and location because there were so many
discrimination all visitors anxious to see where the great
over the world. thinker was buried. Thanks to Marx,
this cemetery is no longer the dilapi-

6 8 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

on the grounds snuffs out all sounds of the city, making Highgate probably the quietest place in
London. Sometimes a strong wind adds to the gloomy garden-of-death atmosphere.
dated one of the 1960s. People from General of Ports in India, Burma In Marxs corner, most of the
every nation in the world have been (Myanmar) and Ceylon (Sri Lanka), graves are usually simple slabs strik-
here and from them the Friends of devised the technique of measuring ingly in contrast with the afuent
Highgate Cemetery (FOHC), founded tides, which is still followed. splendour of the intricately decorated
in 1981, get most of their funds to look Marxs side of the cemetery, the graves skirting the road. All the inhabi-
after the restoration of the grounds. best maintained and the most easily tants are equally indifferent to the glo-
The FOHC ensures that the cemetery accessible, has become a corner for ry or the simplicity of the headstones
is maintained in manicured romantic people who fought against autocratic above them. The paths of glory lead
decay, by trimming a bush here, re- regimes in their countries. Their but to the grave.
moving some moss there and picking graves are simple but often with pun- There is Dr. Jamil Munir Abdul-
up fallen leaves just once in a while. gent messages like I shall never be- Hamid (1939-1997) of the Iraqi Com-
There are many other well-known lieve God plays dice with the world. munist Party; Harinder Kaur Veriah
people in this cemetery. There is a lark- Most of the names are of little-known (1966-2000), the Malayan-Indian so-
spur-covered fork in which is the grave people but from their headstones they cialist; the famous Dr. Yusuf Mah-
(No.1) of Andrew Wilson Baird (1842- appear to be gutsy ghters and worthy mood Daddoo (1909-1983),
1908), who as the Superintendent of deeper study. chairperson of the South African Com-

F R O N T L I N E 6 9
Travel APRIL 10, 2009

dead are still being interred here, but

the pressure on space has eased tre-
mendously since crematoria have be-
come more popular since the 19th
Some of the eminent people who
are buried here are well known
throughout the world. Michael Fara-
day (1791-1867), who constructed the
rst electric motor, lies here. Herbert
Spencer, the famous English philoso-
pher and economist, some of whose
admirers had not blushed to compare
him with Aristotle, is buried across
the road from Marx under a big simple
stone that has only his name. The fa-
mous Henry Gray (1820-1861) of
Grays Anatomy, which still is studied
by medical students, is buried in the
western side.

are allowed to grow and they tilt some tombstones.

One can nd beautifully carved tombstones hidden under immense leafy Christina Georgina Rosseti (1830-
canopies. 1894) is buried here, as is her brother
Dante Rossetis wife. There is a ghoul-
munist Party; and Sello Moeti (1953- is worth the trouble to hack through ish story here: Dante, in a t of grief,
1988), a brilliant militant member of the burrs and the brambles to see some buried a book of his latest poems, with
the African National Congress. unusual gravestones. Buried under a her. Later, when he needed money, he
It is the resting place for many, well-adorned tomb lies one Edward dug up the grave one October night in
who chose to oppose injustice and dis- Richard Woodham (1831-1886), who 1869 and recovered the book that had
crimination all over the world. This was one of the survivors of the charge become entangled in the hair and, af-
corner is actually a compliment to En- of the Light Brigade at Balaclava in ter disinfecting it, sold it for a lot of
glands tolerant tradition that has shel- 1854 but has strangely not been deco- money, thus making this ghastly ex-
tered people of diverse opinions and rated. cess very protable.
ideologies. To the right of Marxs grave There are graves that are simple The many tombs, vaults and mau-
is buried Claudia Jones (1915-1964), and those that are adorned garishly. soleums built with extra grand Gothic
the black freedom campaigner, who There is a most unusual grave with a ourish, preferred by the Victorians,
started the now famous Notting Hill caricature on its headstone. It is of one along winding leafy paths, give some
Carnival. Tom Wakeeld and he is simply and sections of the densely wooded East
Many of the graves, especially of strangely referred to as Mother. No and West Cemeteries a scary appear-
soldiers and colonials, are decorated one could explain why. Perhaps the ance. A strong wind adds to the gloomy
with statuary and embellished with in- FOHC could publish a history of these garden-of-death atmosphere by rub-
tricate imperial emblems and wreaths. graves. bing branches and rustling through
The grave of Lieutenant Colonel John The western section has more out- scattered dry leaves. Vines and roots
Pitt Kennedy (1796-1879) could have rageous Gothic style mausoleums and are allowed to grow and they tilt some
some interest for people in our Border tombs with over-elaborate and ornate tombstones. The effect is chillingly
Roads Organisation, for it was he who carvings and frescoes. Since these dec- dramatic. Perfect setting for ghosts
realigned the India-Tibet road from orations are fragile, only guided tours and nasty spirits. Beautifully carved
Shimla and converted it from a are allowed into this section, unlike the tombstones lie hidden under immense
treacherous path to a commercial ar- eastern one where one is free to roam leafy canopies.
tery in the 1860s. at will. Inevitably, there is a myth about
The forest lit up by wild owers There is an entrance fee for both the Highgate vampire. It was thus nat-
and occasionally by the sun, even in cemeteries. No tourist spot in the Brit- ural that a Dracula movie with a tting
winter when the trees are bare, with its ish Isles can be seen without a tourist bloodthirsty title, Taste the Blood of
foxes and hares is dense enough to fee, which in case of the Highgate Dracula, starring Christopher Lee was
conceal many graves completely, but it Cemetery is an unusually low 1. The shot here in 1968.

7 0 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

A reality check
Sukhadeo Thorats book throws light on the gap between rhetoric and reality
over Dalits emancipation. B Y V . V E N K A T E S A N

CCORDING to data ob- dence of anaemia among S.C. women

A tained in 2007, about 17

per cent of Scheduled Caste
persons in the country cul-
tivate land; about 12 per
cent in the rural areas and 28 per cent
in the urban areas are in business, al-
beit small; the literacy rate among
and the mortality rate among S.C. chil-
dren are high compared with those
among their non-S.C/S.T. counter-
parts. Various studies show evidence
of discrimination in various market
and non-market transactions, includ-
ing access to social services such as
them has gone up to 57 per cent; un- education, health and housing, and in
employment has diminished; and the political participation.
share of the S.Cs in government servic- Thorat reveals, with the support of
es has improved. As a consequence of data, that the cumulative impact of
all these positive changes, poverty has these disparities is reected in the high
declined among the S.Cs, says Suk- levels of poverty in the S.C. commu-
hadeo Thorat in Dalits in India: nity. In 1999-2000, about 36 per cent
Search for a Common Destiny. Fur- of S.Cs were poor as compared with 21
thermore, he cites evidence to suggest per cent among non-S.Cs/S.Ts. The
that the practice of untouchability and prevalence of poverty was particularly
discrimination have reduced to a cer- high among S.C. households that were
tain extent in some public spheres. engaged in wage labour in rural areas
Those who plead for the exclusion IN REVIEW (50 per cent) and urban areas (60 per
of the creamy layer in the S.C. commu- cent).
nity from the reservation ambit will
Dalits in India: Search for More signicantly, S.Cs continue
nd these data useful. The concern of
a Common Destiny by to be victims of untouchability and
Thorats book is not to protect the quo-
Sukhadeo Thorat; Sage, other atrocities, even if they have regis-
ta benets enjoyed by the creamy layer
New Delhi, 2009; pages 314, tered some degree of material pro-
among the S.Cs; nor is the book an
Rs.895. gress. Thorat notes that on an average
answer to critics of the continuation of about 23,000 cases of human rights
quota for the creamy layer among the thirds of S.C. rural households were violations and atrocities are registered
S.Cs. In fact, those who read this book landless or near-landless, compared with the police annually by S.Cs. He
will be more than convinced why the with one-third amongst the non- believes that there is still a long way to
creamy layer category within the S.Cs Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe go before S.Cs can attain some degree
should not be denied the quota bene- communities; fewer than one-third of of respectability, a dignied life and
ts for a long time to come. S.C. households had acquired access to sustainable livelihood. According to
Thorat rightly says that notwith- capital assets, compared with 60 per him, the gap between S.Cs and non-
standing some gains made in the past cent among non-S.C/S.T households; S.Cs can be reduced by strengthening
50 years or so, the disparities between and about 60 per cent of S.C. house- and expanding the current policy of
S.Cs and other sections of Indian so- holds still had to depend on wage la- empowerment and equal opportunity.
ciety continue, with the S.Cs lagging bour, compared with one-fourth Martin Macwan, Chairperson, In-
behind with respect to a number of among non-S.C./S.T. households. dian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS),
development-related indices. Disparities of a similar magnitude which carried out the research for this
Consider this. In 2000, about two- exist in their health status. The inci- book, states in the foreword that the

F R O N T L I N E 7 1
APRIL 10, 2009

thematic issues dealt with in the book Classes. Article 341 of the Constitu- and markets to make businesses run
have been substantiated by detailed tion authorises the President of India by S.C. members viable.
datasets from three decadal periods, to specify castes to be notied as S.Cs. Given that the acquittal rate in cas-
beginning from the 1980s to the pre- The President, in consultation with es relating to untouchability and atroc-
sent day generated from a wide uni- the Governor of the State concerned, ities is close to 99 per cent, Thorat
verse of sources, including ofcial noties a particular caste as S.C.; the suggests that there is a need to improve
sources and micro-level studies. inclusion of the caste in the schedule is drastically the working of institutions
A brief note on the methodology then promulgated by Parliament. Var- such as the judiciary, the police and the
and sources of the book will be of use to ious presidential orders from 1950 to relevant divisions of ministries, public
readers to understand how compre- 1978 notied, modied and amended prosecutors and village-level function-
hensive and detailed the chapters of statutory lists of S.Cs in various parts aries engaged in the enforcement of
this book are. The book draws upon of the country. At present, there are the laws aimed to prevent untouch-
datasets from the Census of India and 1,231 castes on the list of S.Cs. ability and atrocities against S.Cs and
the National Sample Surveys on land In the introduction, Thorat briey S.Ts and the delivery of social justice.
ownership, employment and unem- deals with the characteristic features The book rightly observes that the
ployment, and consumption expendi- of S.Cs. He rightly suggests that the strategy of economic and educational
ture. It also utilises the Rural Labour criteria for inclusion of a particular empowerment will improve the capac-
Inquiry reports, which are unique in caste on the S.C. list were based on its ity of the S.Cs to participate in eco-
the sense that they provide data on social, educational and economic nomic development, but will not
several aspects of rural labour from backwardness arising out of tradition- necessarily provide their members
1974-75 to the present day. al customs related to the practice of their due share in employment and
In case of indicators such as educa- untouchability. access to various markets. An im-
tion, health and civic amenities, the The Government of India Act, provement in education levels and job
book utilises data from the Census of 1935, determined these forms of depri- skills will improve employability, but
India and the National Family Plan- vation, particularly social and eco- discrimination in the labour market
ning and Health Survey reports. For nomic, on the following basis: that it may deny them the chance of getting
the analysis of the incidence of dis- occupies a low position in the Hindu jobs. Similarly, the book argues that
crimination and atrocities, the book social structure; its representation in the availability of agriculture land and
relies on data carried in Crime in India government services is inadequate; it capital for (non-farm) business may
reports and substantiates it with addi- is inadequately represented in the help members of the S.Cs initiate cul-
tional data from the National Com- elds of trade, commerce and indus- tivation and non-farm businesses, but
mission of Scheduled Castes and try; it suffers from social and physical discrimination in the provision of in-
Scheduled Tribes, reports of the Min- isolation from the rest of society; and puts, credit, information, civic amen-
istry of Social Justice and Empower- there is a general lack of educational ities such as electricity, water, and so
ment, and some primary studies on development amongst major sections on, and the sale of nal products may
caste discrimination and atrocities. of the community. Considering that generate less income and make their
there is a clamour from many other businesses less protable.
LOOKING BACK backward classes for inclusion on the The book suggests that there is evi-
The book is of immense value for the list of either S.Cs or S.Ts, Thorat could dence of discrimination against S.C.
nuggets of information it carries. The have also dealt with the adequacy of workers in employment and S.C. busi-
Schedule Caste members constitute these criteria, although this cannot be nesspersons in various markets. It is
about 16.2 per cent of the Indian pop- suggested as a serious limitation of this precisely for this reason, the book ar-
ulation. More than half the S.C. pop- book, whose major concerns are gues, that the equal opportunity policy
ulation is concentrated in the States of different. has been developed in the form of res-
Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, The book deals with policy direc- ervation to ensure S.Cs their due share
Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. tions for the government in terms of in employment, education, capital for
The use of the nomenclature dual strategies, namely, empower- business, housing, water and other
Scheduled Castes can be traced back ment and equal opportunity. Under amenities. The book makes a strong
to 1932, when it was proposed before empowerment, Thorat calls for im- plea for a parallel reservation policy for
the Indian Franchise Committee by provement in access of the S.Cs to agri- the private sector, covering various
the then provincial government of cultural land, and for steps to make markets, as there is evidence of caste-
Bengal. Accordingly, in the Govern- S.C. cultivators viable, in terms of in- based discrimination.
ment of India Act, 1935, a schedule creased access to credit and other in- Thorat, who is the Chairman of the
containing a list of these classes was puts and to market opportunities. University Grants Commission, has to
added for the rst time. Prior to this, Similarly, he recommends improving be commended for authoring this book
they were classied as Depressed the S.Cs access to capital, information with empirically rich data.

7 2 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

Intellectual invasion
Jonathan Lyons reveals the inuence of the Arab world on Western
civilisation. B Y J A M E S B U C H A N

HE theory of permanent translation, chief among them Aristot-

T Muslim-Christian enmity,
though it ourishes in the
caves of Tora Bora and parts
of the American academy,
was long ago exploded by the histori-
ans. In this clear and well-written
book, Jonathan Lyons delves into all
le, the mathematician Euclid and the
medical philosophers Hippocrates
and Galen. For this natural philoso-
phy, the Arabs coined the word falsafa,
and called its practitioners falasifa.
The great Arabic philosophers such as
Ibn Sina in Iran (known in Latin Eu-
sorts of musty corners to show how rope as Avicenna, who died in 1037)
Arabic science percolated into the La- and Ibn Rushd in Spain (Averroes,
tin world in the middle ages and who died in 1198) found ways of in-
helped civilise a rude society. serting Aristotelian natural philoso-
He tells how Arab advances in as- phy and Ptolemaic cosmology into a
tronomy, mathematics, engineering, scriptural monotheism, which was
navigation, geography, medicine, ar- precisely what the Latins needed. As
chitecture, chemistry, gardening, - Lyons writes, Arabic replaced Greek
nance and verse passed into Europe by as the universal language of scientic
way of the Crusader kingdoms, Sicily inquiry.
and Spain and prepared the ground for He begins with a vivid contrast. In
both the Renaissance and the scientic 1109, ten years after the Crusaders
advances of the 16th and 17th centu- sacked Jerusalem and put Muslims,
ries. This inltration of ideas has left Jews and eastern Christians to the
traces in our language, from alcohol, IN REVIEW sword, Adelard of Bath, a well-born
algebra and algorithm to the Arabic scholar, set off for Antioch not to kill
The House of Wisdom: How
names of the bright stars Betelgeuse Muslims but, as he put it, to investi-
the Arabs Transformed
and Aldebaran. gate the studies of the Arabs (studia
Western Civilization by
With the fall of the Roman empire arabum). As so often in medieval biog-
Jonathan Lyons; Bloomsbury;
in the west, Europe lost touch with raphy, a few facts are made to work
pages 248.
much of its classical inheritance and hard, and some scholars (though not
was isolated by the Arab invasions Lyons) doubt Adelard ever mastered
from the Byzantine empire where natural science and medicine, along Arabic. Nonetheless, he is thought to
some ancient learning survived. Lyons with Indian mathematics and astrono- have taken part in translations from
recounts how early medieval Christen- my that had come by way of Iran. Sys- Arabic of Euclids geometric system,
dom was unable accurately to measure tematic reasoning, driven out of the elements, and the astronomical ta-
the time of day for monastic ofces, or Muslim jurisprudence in favour of bles of al-Khwarizmi, and composed
x the date of Easter, while dogmatic precedents from the Prophets life and such original works as On the Use of the
schemes of scripture and hierarchy left conduct, found a new eld of inquiry in Astrolabe. For Lyons, Adelard is the
little scope for natural science. Aristot- ancient geography and cosmology. Af- rst man of science. Such was the
les inuence was conned to the logic ter the founding of Baghdad in A.D. prestige of Arabic learning in England,
and rhetoric of the schools. Bishop Isi- 762, the Abbasid caliphs established a according to a startling passage here,
dore of Seville promulgated the idea library and a team of translators at the that partisans of King Henry II, during
that the Earth was at. Beit al-Hikma, the House of Wisdom the quarrel with Rome over Thomas
In contrast, when the Arabs con- of Lyons title. Becket, threatened the king would
quered Iraq in the rst half of the sev- A famous early catalogue of Arabic convert to Islam.
enth century A.D., they came upon books, known as the Fihrist, lists as The new learning spread. By the
living schools of Hellenistic learning in many as 80 Greek authors in Arabic middle of the 12th century, Euclid and

F R O N T L I N E 7 3
APRIL 10, 2009

A P ERS I A N ( I R A N I A N ) astrolabe from 1208.

Pythagoras are arrayed with the Virgin with the wizards in the eighth circle of
on the west front of Chartres cathe- hell. St. Thomas Aquinas brought a
dral. Lyons summons up a world of measure of peace to the church, but the
itinerant scholars such as Michael systems of Aristotle and Ptolemy be-
Scot, who (in the words of one monk) came rigid and brittle till they shat-
in Paris seek liberal arts, in Orleans tered in the Copernican revolution of
classics, at Salerno medicine, at Toledo the 16th century.
magic, but nowhere manners and Why Muslim science and medicine
morals. remained in their medieval state in
Scot found his way to the Arabising certain regions well into our lifetimes
court of one of the baptised Sultans, belongs to another book. For all Lyons
the Emperor Frederick II, where he wonder and admiration, the falasifa
translated Arabic commentaries on were always out of the mainstream of
Aristotle and helped promote the great Muslim thought; they are best under-
mathematician Leonardo of Pisa. Leo- stood as a sort of sect, like the Shia, and
nardo, generally known as Fibonacci, were as vulnerable to charges of here-
gave a systematic account of the Arab/ sy. The only small blemish in this ne
Indian numerical system and the sign book is that Lyons has printed a beau-
0, which the Arabs call zephyr, or tiful page of al-Birunis Arabic treatise
rather sifr and which we call the zero. on mathematics back to front, so the
For the orthodox, these men reeked of text can only be read in a mirror.
brimstone, and Dante placed Michael Guardian News & Media 2009

7 4 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009
books/in brief

Kashmir: the truths

A volume of great value, which no historian or student of history or politics can
ignore. B Y A . G . N O O R A N I

ROFESSOR Sumit Sar- extent to which I can be of any assis-

kars earlier volume, in this tance to you, it will be entirely and
series of documents on the Towards Freedom: wholeheartedly be made available. A
freedom movement, on the Documents on the Movement large number of States are asking me
year 1946 covered British for Independence in India, for my opinion as to the choice of ad-
India. The present volume covers the 1946, Part 2, edited by Sumit ministrators and I shall certainly keep
princely states, which gave us no end of Sarkar; Indian Council of in mind what you have written, and
trouble as we moved towards indepen- Historical Research; Oxford feeling as I do, that your presence at
dence in 1947. The distinguished his- University Press; pages 1,455, the head of an important Indian State
torian has covered both parts of the Rs.2,950. will be of great use to the cause which
country ably, as one might expect of you and I have both at heart, you may
him. dom from a ruler whose title to rule rely upon my complete cooperation in
You have here the central Indian was derived from what Mahatma the matter.
states and the states of western, east- Gandhi aptly called a sale-deed, the
ern and north-eastern India. But at- Treaty of Amritsar (1846) by which the NIZAMS INTRIGUES
tention will be focussed on Dogra Gulab Singh bought Kashmir In 1946, the Nizam began his intrigues
Travancore, over whose affairs Sir C.P. for Rs.75 lakh. against supporters of accession to In-
Ramaswami Aiyar presided with all The recently published Empire of dia, now that independence was near.
the airs of an autocrat; the Nizams the Sikhs: The Life and Times of Mah- The Congress was restrained, realising
Hyderabad; and Kashmir. araja Ranjit Singh by Patwant Singh as it did that the Nizam was encourag-
Sarkars overview of the states in and Jyoti M. Rai ably documents Gu- ing communal forces. But the Nizam
general knits the documents together lab Singhs treachery to his masters, brooked no arrogance. He insulted
in an instructive survey. It is a volume the Sikh Darbar at Lahore, in their Jinnah.
of great value, which no historian or hour of adversity. It is not Gulab Singh The British Residents two reports
student of history or politics can but, as the authors write, the British for the rst and second halves of July
ignore. who founded the State of Jammu and 1946 are most revealing. An extract
The overview describes the peas- Kashmir. from the report for the second half of
ants struggles and the peoples agita- Ramaswami Aiyar was not only an July:
tion for democratic reforms in the unprincipled autocrat but, as his letter During his stay in Hyderabad Mr.
princely states. The All India States to Shyama Prasad Mookerjee repro- Jinnah addressed ve meetings all of
Peoples Conference deserves a book duced in this volume establishes, a which were well attended and was pre-
by itself. rabid communalist as well. The pop- sented with purses amounting to more
In 1946, Jawharlal Nehru, despite ular struggle against his rule is well than a lakh of rupees. In his speeches
his reservations, rushed to help Sheikh recorded in this volume. This is what he stressed the need for Muslim unity
Abdullah in his ill-timed, ill-advised CP wrote to Mookerjee: You have and assured the Muslims of Hydera-
Quit Kashmir movement. Muham- done wonderful and formative work in bad that if they would unite they would
mad Ali Jinnah and his Muslim the direction of Championing the have his and the Muslim Leagues un-
League were cold. The League press in cause of Hindu solidarity and of expos- stinted support. Referring to his state-
Lahore sympathised with the Sheikh ing the vacillating and suicidal policy ment in Delhi on the recent
and supported him ardently. of the Congress. It is a pity, however, development in Kashmir, he said it
that our community has not roused had no bearing on Hyderabad where
SALE-DEED FOR KASHMIR itself into a realisation of the crisis conditions were different and where a
Asaf Alis performance as defence ahead of it. government more suited to her [its]
counsel in the Sheikhs trial for sedi- Anyhow, I consider that your idea genius was necessary. This statement
tion was splendid. He rested his case of working in an Indian state is a very was criticised by the Local Hindu
on the peoples right to demand free- suitable and timely one, and to the Leaders.

F R O N T L I N E 7 5
books/review APRIL 10, 2009

Knowing Darwin
Two important books consider Charles Darwins achievements and the radical
changes brought about by his thinking. B Y G I L L I A N B E E R

VER the past 150 years Darwin seeks to hearten and reassure

Darwin has become many the reader: When I view all beings not
people and many opi- as special creations, but as the lineal
nions. On the Origin of descendents of some few beings which
Species has been used to lived long before the rst bed of the
justify ideologies quite at odds with Silurian system was deposited, they
each other, including socialism and seem to me to become ennobled. We
fascism; he has been claimed as an are part of the grandest of all families,
atheist, yet also represented as an em- he suggests, because we are part of the
piricist hardly aware of the implica- oldest family (that criterion by which
tions of his own theory. His the grandeur of aristocratic families is
determined silence in the Origin on judged). His theory challenges apar-
the effects of his ideas for humankind theid in all its forms, including that
may have been intended as he said between the living and the dead.
to be diplomatic, but instead shook Two important new books consid-
the foundations of human pride in our Darwins Island: The er Darwins achievement and the rad-
separate status. Galapagos in the Garden of ical changes brought about by his
His reluctance to apply evolution- England by Steve Jones; thinking. In Darwins Island, Steve
ary principles directly to social reform, Little, Brown; pages 320. Jones places his work in a continuum
as his fellow naturalist Alfred Russel that reaches into the present of scien-
Wallace did, has led some to view him tic research, as well as emphasising
as unconcerned with social justice. its extraordinary prescience; in Dar-
Darwin takes it for granted that we are wins Sacred Cause, Adrian Desmond
part of the animal kingdom. And he and James Moore investigate the so-
takes that understanding further: we cial and personal forces that formed
are kin to all organic life forms, extant his thinking. Jones looks forward, and
and extinct. laterally across all the areas to which
In the telling of Darwins story, em- Darwins work contributed; Desmond
phasis is often put on his presence as a and Moore plumb the past and seek a
family man, the devoted husband and central explanation for Darwins drive.
father of 10 children who had the free Both books enhance our under-
run of the house and even his study. standing of Darwins signicance.
Darwin certainly lived in the midst of They are exhilarating in the freedom
his own family and among those of his Darwins Sacred Cause: and precision with which they track
immediate kin, present and for several Race, Slavery and the Quest ideas. Though both treat Darwin as a
generations back. But in the Origin for Human Origins by Adrian great man, they are not at the mercy
Darwin also expanded the idea of fam- Desmond and James Moore; of the great-man view of history. They
ily, away from the human only, away Allen Lane; pages 512. recognise that the powerful individual
from what he called the exclusiveness is shaped and conditioned by the times
of pedigrees and armorial bearings, lived long before the Silurian epoch. in which he or she lives. There is a
to embrace all the past and present We are all the offspring of common difference between them, though:
inhabitants of the world. Instead of parents, and for Darwin this inclu- Jones has no truck with the idea that
being special creations, all organic siveness is the grand fact he has Darwins theories are inherently so-
beings are, as an outcome of his theory, uncovered. cial, though their effects are colossally
lineal descendants of those which In the conclusion to the Origin, so. Desmond and Moore emphasise

7 6 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

the inspiration that political ideas pro- ly within Britain (often accompanied mous, which led him to refuse the idea
vided, and see them as intrinsic to Dar- by subjects of study such as pots of of reproductive fraud in mammals.)
wins theories. orchids or of insect-eating plants . . . at
Both books draw on Darwins in- considerable inconvenience). MAGIC OF CONNECTION
sistence that all organisms are kin and The delight in reading Jones book Jones is still startled by the investiga-
from common stock. They set out to is the zest with which he explores facts tions he records and by the potential-
rescue him from some false assump- and sets them together to yield more ities of science. He demurs at anything
tions and to demonstrate the range than anyone could have expected, in that too closely identies the scientist
and impassioned foresight of his work, true Darwinian style. Although he in- with the science, yet he emphasises the
as well as its relation to his own life sists on the crucial experimental pres- magic of connection: There is so-
experience. And both engage with the ence of the British Isles in Darwins mething magical in the way that scien-
whole corpus of his writing, not just researches, he does not conne himself tic rationalism connects raindrops
the Origin. to these shores. Jones demonstrates with heartbeats, and battered trees
That in itself is a great gain: Dar- the coherence of Darwins output, with depressed infants.
win was an indefatigable writer as well showing how much of his thinking ra- Occasionally, I found his insis-
as a scrupulous observer throughout diates out from his studies of barnacles tence on the language of competition
his adult life, from the 1830s to the and climbing plants, insects and and struggle misleading: the biolog-
early 1880s. In that time, he published worms. The nches and the tortoises of ical war between ower and insect
a continuous stream of books, many of the Galapagos are part of the throng of might be seen as biological collabora-
them founding documents of a range life-forms, not the sole topic of his in- tion. He insists that the whole of evo-
of different disciplines. The Effects of vestigations. lution involves an endless set of tactics,
Cross and Self-Fertilisation in the Ani- Darwin himself had geology as his but no strategy. That is, Darwinian
mal Kingdom (1876), for example, was founding imagination and, writing to theory is not predictive. The intricacy
about hermaphrodite plants and was, his friend and cousin William Darwin of connections and deviations certain-
Jones argues, a rst step in the scien- Fox, just before he arrived at the Gala- ly makes it impossible to foresee the
tic study of sex. pagos, he was excited mostly at the future. Nor, Jones asserts, does natural
As Jones demonstrates, Darwins prospect of nding rock strata there. selection have any inbuilt tendency to
concern with sexed and unsexed spe- To Darwin, nothing was trivial, since improve matters. Here he differs from
cies and with their inventive means of his entire theory depended on trans- Darwin who, frequently links the idea
exchanging genes had its bearing on mission of slight variations which, over of selection with that of improvement.
his anxieties about rst-cousin mar- time, produce huge consequences. On That difference cannot be glossed
riages such as his own. But the out- the contrary, as Jones makes clear, he over. Jones seems to assume Darwins
come of his investigation was not saw how things small and large in scale assent, but in the Origin we read: old
controlled by these concerns. Jones al- relate intimately to each other and forms will be supplanted by new and
so goes on to show where later research how organisms remote in time and improved forms; the later and more
has reinforced or corrected Darwins place share processes with others close improved forms have conquered the
views: He denied the importance of at hand. older and less improved organic beings
selng in animals and was again mis- Jones relishes Darwins own puz- in the struggle for life. And in his au-
taken I myself once worked on her- zlement, even occasional exasperation, tobiography Darwin writes of his dis-
maphrodite slugs, who manage quite at the sheer inventiveness of forms in may at the distant fate of Earths
well with sex within their own skins. nature. Of orchids, Darwin writes: organic life as the planet cools: Believ-
Hardly any fact has struck me so ing as I do that man in the distant
RADICAL INSIGHTS much as the endless diversities of future will be a far more perfect crea-
Jones shows how Darwin, living a fam- structure, the prodigality of resources, ture than he is now, it is an intolerable
ily life in the English countryside, was for gaining the very same end, namely, thought that he and all other sentient
able to attain radical insights and ex- the fertilisation of one ower by the beings are doomed to complete anni-
perimental results from the materials pollen from another plant. hilation after such long-continued
of his garden and greenhouses and Jones comments that he glimpsed slow progress. Natural selection does
from the elds that surrounded his but a small part of the game played by not produce perfection (indeed, im-
house. These insights and results, he all plants as they full their sexual perfection, as of the eye, is evidence of
argues, are as vital to evolutionary the- identity and goes on to ruminate on natural selection in process), but Dar-
ory and its future as those Darwin cheats, stupidity, reproductive dishon- win does draw the idea of improve-
gleaned from his visit to the Galapagos esty and identity fraud in plants, with ment tightly into his understanding of
Islands. He shows, too, that despite the some side-glances at human parallels. its outcome.
illness that hampered much of his (He notes with some glee Darwins as- Looking back, we may see this in-
adult life, Darwin travelled quite wide- sumption that females are monoga- sistence as tinctured with the Victor-

F R O N T L I N E 7 7
APRIL 10, 2009

ian belief in progress and the hierar- but looming larger as explanations of
chical views of race-theorists, which subjugation came to the fore. Slavery
colour Darwins efforts even as he tries features everywhere in their account:
to think himself free of those assump- from Darwins immediate family cir-
tions. Thats not to his discredit, but it cle, to his later testy relations with his
is important to acknowledge the de- early mentor, the great geologist Char-
gree to which he both worked within les Lyell, who failed fully to acknowl-
and struggled against the assumptions edge the evils of slavery.
of his time, especially when they are Although there are times where

not our assumptions. Desmond and Moores assiduity in
nding side-references to slavery be-
LOATHING OF SLAVERY comes somewhat oppressive, the au-
Desmond and Moore concentrate on thors do succeed in demonstrating the
the human implications of Darwins degree to which current events merged
argument that all life-forms are kin. C H A RLES D AR W I N , AN 1883 into Victorian scientic inquiry and
Their theme is the appalling practice painting. inected its ndings. Moreover, they
of slavery and the history of the anti- highlight Darwins ability to treat
slavery movement. They explore the gether though their characterisation equally people of many backgrounds,
Darwin familys place in that move- of Walter Scotts novels as emphasis- including the impressive Richard Hill
ment and show the ways in which sci- ing continuity and medievalism misses naturalist and anti-slavery activist
entic debate was fundamental to the a trick. In fact, novels such as Waverley and the rst gentleman of colour in
struggle between those who tolerated and Old Mortality confronted what the Jamaican magistracy, assigned to
or supported slavery and those, such as was then quite recent upheaval, resis- adjudicate between former slave-hol-
Darwin, who had both a visceral and tance and change: the forces of discon- ders and slaves. Such ties were perso-
an intellectual loathing of it. They go tinuity and of struggle for territory. nal but also always in the service of
further, to suggest that the initial drive Desmond and Moore explore the experimental investigation and scien-
behind Darwins investigation of spe- opinions and histories of Darwins tic theory.
cies formation was his personal loath- teachers and fellow-students, their re- The authors set out to establish not
ing of slavery. To this end, they lations to phrenology, philanthropy, only the centrality of race relations,
marshal an admirable and exciting taxonomy and taxidermy. The last and specically slavery, in Darwins in-
mass of research into Darwin family proved especially fruitful for Darwin: vestigations, but to demonstrate that
history and Darwins early life, bring- one winter he bought 40 hours of in- he formed the concept of sexual selec-
ing out the importance of his mothers struction in stufng birds from a black tion much earlier than is often thought
Unitarianism and his Wedgwood rela- freedman, John, and late in life re- and that it owes much to these racial
tives activism. Their account of Dar- called that I used often to sit with him, controversies. The Descent of Man thus
wins rather unhappy year at for he was a very pleasant and intelli- becomes all about sexual selection
Edinburgh University, struggling to gent man. Desmond and Moores rather than this idea being loosely add-
study as a doctor, is illuminating. point is that Darwin, from quite early ed at the end.
This episode is usually written off on, had learned to appreciate the ca- There may be more unevenness in
as a fruitless period in Darwins young pacities of people who elsewhere Darwins attitudes than this book can
life and intellectual formation. The au- would be subject to slavery. Moreover, quite tolerate, particularly in relation
thors explain his reaction in terms of since John had travelled with his to hierarchy among human races. And
him being a polished young gentle- master, Waterton, through jungle absences, like that of humankind from
man, one who had a particular hor- country, Darwin would have had ac- the Origin, can be lled with many
ror of bleeding. But given that one of cess to a different view of the commun- meanings: perhaps Darwin was not as
these operations was on a child, its not ities they had explored from that to be preoccupied with the human as are his
hard to share his horror at pain. found in travel books. In Edinburgh, commentators. But in the main they
His capacity for empathy was a when Darwin was studying there, is- are justied in their claims: Darwin
quality that was to stand him in good sues of environmental versus anatom- never forgot the cries he heard from an
stead in his scientic practice later, so ical determinism, and a self-animated anonymous house while on a land
that their vague summary sentence is versus a creatively animated nature, journey from the Beagle, and this
disappointing: It was clearly the aura were being thrashed out all around haunting rst-hand experience of lib-
as much as the anatomy that he hated. him. eral impotence in the face of cruel and
But much else in these early chapters is Already the shadow of slavery as a degrading suffering fuelled his think-
revelatory, in part because Desmond dark corollary was emerging, Des- ing.
and Moore bring so many strands to- mond and Moore write, never stated, Guardian News & Media 2009

7 8 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

The wavy nouvelle vogue phrase, with its multiplicity of meanings, makes the
alliterative words applicable to a number of different, usually nefarious, acts.

EDS Interview ris going to pay to play?), no hyphen.

F Obama on Pay-to-
Play was The
Washington Times
headline last Christ-
mas Eve, subheaded Teams Blagojev-
ich review nds nothing
inappropriate in contacts between
But if it is used as a compound ad-
jective (Welcome to my pay-to-play
column), in go the hyphens.
That should settle that. What at-
tracts me to this wavy nouvelle vogue
phrase, however, is its multiplicity of
meanings, making the alliterative
The English
Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois words applicable to any number of dif- Playboy magazine hired Ron Reagan
and White House aides about the re- ferent, usually nefarious, acts. Jr., the Presidents son, then 24, as a
placement for the Senate seat Barack Gambling: First use I can nd reporter. A local newspaper noted that
Obama was vacating. That was about (though with the words inverted) has in observing ancillary events he at-
the suspected sale of the appoint- to do with an experiment conducted by tended the Hookers Ball for 15 min-
ment by the FBI-wiretapped Gover- the psychologist Norman Kass and re- utes and left hastily when told now its
nor, who was ultimately impeached ported in a June 1964 issue of the jour- time to pay to play.
and removed. nal Child Development. The articles Jazz and football: Some jazz clubs
Three weeks later, above an edi- precis noted that 40 children between charge customers who are musical
torial headlined The Price of Pay-to- six and 10 years of age, equally divided amateurs for the right to sit in with
Play and a reminder that the most between boys and girls, were placed in the pros, just as school sports teams
brazen episode of pay-to-play of late a play-to-pay gambling situation. may require students to invest in their
was in the Blagojevich affair, The New The phrase has also been used in schol- own equipment and uniforms.
York Times used the same compound arly discussions of game theory. Music-broadcasting corruption:
phrase about the withdrawal of Gover- Political chicanery: A 1977 citation Radio Sees Pay-for-Play Tables
nor Bill Richardson of New Mexico dug up by Grant Barrett, co-host of the Turned on Gov was a New York Daily
from nomination to the Obama cabi- radio programme A Way With News headline last year after Governor
net. Words, is in a Washington Post article Eliot Spitzer admitted patronising a
The editorial held that the New by Walter Pincus, referring to the pre- prostitute. Joke circulating in radio
Mexico Governor backed away from vious years Congressional sex, pay for the last week, David Hinckley
the chance to run the Commerce De- and play scandals. This was followed wrote, notes that Spitzer leaned hard
partment as federal prosecutors inves- by a 1982 New York Times story by on radio a couple of years back with
tigate whether his aides steered a Nathaniel Sheppard Jr. about the Rev. allegations of payola, a practice whe-
lucrative state contract to a generous Jesse Jacksons Chicago-based civil rein record labels or their promoters
political donor. rights organisation PUSH, which was give a radio station considerations in
Many regular readers of this co- said to pressure corporations to invest return for getting on-air exposure.
lumn will focus on the hyphenation prots made in black areas back into Pay-for-play, its called.
issue: Why, if pay for play means re- those communities. What makes the phrase so widely
muneration for participation, should Critics objected to his statement If applicable is not the pay usually
the words forming the collocation be you want to play you have to pay as a money or some other emolument but
separated by hyphens? My judgment, form of shakedown, which he denied. the multiple meaning of play: Play a
after consulting the lexicographer Sol Barrett notes that variations on that game of chance? Play a role in politics?
Steinmetz: If the phrase is being used remark, which Jackson popularised in Play a record on the air? Play the mar-
as a noun (was Blago engaged in an a socio-economic context, appeared ket? Play the fool? Play around prom-
example of pay-to-play?), then it previously in books about crime. iscuously? You pays your money and
takes a pair of hyphens. If it is used as a Prostitution: At the 1984 Demo- you plays your choice.
verbal statement (was his friend Bur- cratic convention in San Francisco, The New York Times Service

F R O N T L I N E 7 9
Human Rights APRIL 10, 2009

Indian record
The media have ignored the drubbings Indias Attorneys General have received in
the U.N.s human rights bodies. B Y A . G . N O O R A N I

successor, the U.N. Human Rights Council.

India is a party to a number of If the truth be told, even the National Human
Rights Commission was born, if not in sin, as a baby
international human rights to demonstrate our virtue. There is no denying that
on many an issue it has rendered service or that on
instruments... [but] has not ratied sensitive issues it becomes patriotic. Nor does one
question the fact that our record is about the best in
the Convention against Torture and the Third World.
But how many papers reported the proceedings
Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading of the Human Rights Council on April 14, 2008,
when Solicitor General Goolam Vahanvati present-
Treatment or Punishment, or its ed Indias report and had to respond to criticism of
Indias record by the members?
Optional Protocol. The background is important. On March 27,
THOSE who live in glass houses should not 1979, India ratied both the International Covenant
throw stones at others. The saying applies very much on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the
to successive governments of India which chafe at International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
international accountability for their observance of The Instrument of Ratication was deposited with
human rights, are very touchy about foreign crit- the U.N. on April 10, 1979. Much later, on May 14,
icism while freely criticising the records of other 1993, the government moved in Parliament the Hu-
countries. Strangely enough, while Indias participa- man Rights Commission Bill (No. 65) of 1993. It
tion in the United Nations fora is well reported in the became law on January 8, 1994, in an improved
media, for nearly a quarter century the media have form, as the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993
downplayed, if not ignored or even blacked out, the (Act 10 of 1994).
drubbings Indias Attorneys General have received Each step reected its clime. The ratication was
in the U.N.s Human Rights Commission and its done by the Janata Party government in the wake of
the Emergency imposed by Prime Minister Indira
Gandhi (June 1975-March 1977). The Act was enact-
ed for mixed considerations. It was partly in re-
sponse to demand at home but largely to silence
criticism abroad. This duality of its raison detre has
impaired the institution, in its composition and ac-
tual functioning.
In 1992, the late Vithal N. Gadgil of the Congress
represented India before the Human Rights Com-
mission, which met annually in Geneva. It was set up
by the U.N.s Economic and Social Council on Febru-
ary 16, 1946. Listening to the criticism of Indias
handling of insurgency situations, he hit upon a

bright idea our own Human Rights Commission.

Its ndings will act as correctives to the biased and
one-sided reports of some of the NGOs [non-go-
vernmental organisations]. It will also be an effec-
W O M E N P RO T ES T I N G I N front of the Assam tive answer to the politically motivated international
Ries headquarters at Kangla, Imphal, against the criticism. It was to be a part of the state, its defender
custodial killing of a girl, in July 2004. before the world.

8 0 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

WOR K ON A N irrigation canal under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in progress at Sabnima
village in Athmalgola block of Patna in Bihar on December 24, 2008. At the Universal Periodic Review of India, China
asked how India intended to implement its NREGA programme further.
Article 16 of the International Cov- report on July 4, 1984, four years after dias response was formal rather than
enant on Economic, Social and Cultu- ratication. It was examined by the substantial. It relied on the texts of the
ral Rights binds state parties to submit HRC in New York on March 28 and Constitution and the laws. They want-
reports on the measures which they 30, 1984, in three meetings. Indias ed details on actual performance and
have adopted and the progress made in Attorney General K. Parasaran was criticised laws such as the Armed Forc-
achieving the observance of the rights closely questioned. es (Special Powers) Act, the Terrorist
recognised herein. They are to be sub- The second report was due on July and Disruptive Activities (Prevention)
mitted in stages in accordance with a 9, 1985. It was submitted on July 12, Act (TADA) and the National Security
programme drawn up by the Econom- 1989, after seven reminders. It was ex- Act as being incompatible with the
ic and Social Council. amined by the HRC on March 26 and Covenant. They were concerned at in-
Article 40 of the Covenant on Civil 27, 1991, in four meetings (CCPR/C/ stances of torture and death in police
and Political Rights contains a similar SR 1039 to 1042). custody and failure to bring offenders
commitment. These reports were exa- In 1984 as well as in 1991, members to justice. What is important is that a
mined by the Human Rights Commit- of the HRC seemed extremely well in- pattern of international accountability
tee (HRC) set up under Article 28 of formed and closely questioned Indias has been rmly established.
the Covenant. India submitted its rst representative. On both occasions, In- Questioning on the second occa-

F R O N T L I N E 8 1
APRIL 10, 2009

sion was sharper than on the rst. It was replaced by the Human special procedures, including observa-
NGOs such as Amnesty International Rights Council by U.N. General As- tions and comments by the state con-
and Human Rights Watch briefed sembly Resolution 60/251 of March cerned, and other relevant ofcial U.N.
members of the HRC thoroughly. At- 15, 2006, and consists of 47 member- documents.
torney General G. Ramaswamy pre- states of the U.N. It was mandated to Additional, credible and reliable
sented the second report. The third undertake a Universal Periodic Re- information provided by other rele-
report was submitted only on Novem- view (UPR), based on objective and vant stakeholders to the Universal Pe-
ber 29, 1995. It was examined by the reliable information, of the fullment riodic Review, which should also be
HRC in Geneva on July 24-25, 1997. by each state of its human rights obli- taken into consideration by the Coun-
Attorney General Ashok Desai intro- gations and commitments in a manner cil in the review. The stakeholders in-
duced the report. which ensures universality of coverage clude, inter alia, NGOs, human rights
We had by then built up a formid- and equal treatment with respect to all defenders, academic institutions and
able reputation for transparency in in- states; the review shall be a cooper- research institutes, regional organisa-
ternational accountability on human ative mechanism, based on an inter- tions and civil society representatives.
rights. The 1997 Annual Report of the active dialogue, with the full The national report is required to be
Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, involvement of the country concerned prepared on the basis of general guide-
summary or arbitrary executions said: and with consideration given to its ca- lines adopted by the Council on Sep-
The Special Rapporteur continued to pacity-building needs; such a mecha- tember 27, 2007.
receive numerous reports indicating nism shall complement and not Additionally, the HRC adopted a
the occurrence of violations of the duplicate the work of treaty bodies. detailed UPR mechanism on June 18,
right to life in India. The majority of At its fth session on June 18, 2007. It runs into 127 paragraphs plus
the information received related to the 2007, the Council responded to this 20 Rules of Procedure.
situation in the State of Jammu and request and adopted, in Resolution When, therefore, Indias report
Kashmir where, according to various 5/1, detailed modalities regarding the came up before the Human Rights
sources, Indian security forces were re- UPR mechanism. These modalities re- Council for its consideration, it had
sponsible for human rights violations, late, in particular, to the basis of the before it an able compilation prepared
including deliberate killings of detai- review, principles and objectives to be by the OHCHR of the information on
nees in custody and reprisal killings of followed, the periodicity and order of Indias record contained in the reports
civilians. The perpetrators of extrajud- review of countries, process and mod- of U.N. bodies and rapporteurs as well
icial, summary or arbitrary executions alities as well as the outcome and the as a summary of 37 stakeholders sub-
reportedly continue to enjoy virtual follow-up to the review. Furthermore, missions to the UPR. They include
impunity. In addition, it was reported the HRC decided that the review Amnesty International, Human
that the government continued to sup- would be conducted in one working Rights Watch and the Kashmir Insti-
port paramilitary troops, which are re- group composed of the 47 member- tute of International Relations. It al-
portedly also responsible for the killing states of the Council. leged that 80 per cent of the school
of a large number of civilians. The On September 21, 2007, the HRC buildings were occupied by the Army.
source pointed out that these troops adopted a calendar in relation to the Even in former times, internation-
are non-uniformed and therefore dif- consideration of the 192 member- al NGOs would brief members thor-
cult to identify. The Special Rappor- states of the U.N. to be considered dur- oughly on aws in the reports
teur was also informed that a number ing the rst four-year cycle of the UPR submitted by the states. The HRC ap-
of armed militant opposition groups mechanism. It decided on the precise pointed Ghana, Indonesia and the
are responsible for human rights abus- order of consideration of reviewed Netherlands as a troika of rapporteurs
es, including the killing of numerous states in 2008. In accordance with to facilitate review of Indias report.
civilians. Resolution 5/1, the documents on A list of questions prepared in advance
Three requests in 1994 for permis- which the review would be based are by Ireland, Germany, Portugal, Italy,
sion to visit India were declined (em- information prepared by the state con- Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the Neth-
phasis added, throughout). The 1997 cerned, which can take the form of a erlands, the United Kingdom and Lat-
Reports of the U.N.s Working Group national report; and any other infor- via was transmitted to India through
on Disappearances and the Special mation considered relevant by the the troika. These questions are avail-
Rapporteur on Torture were also crit- state concerned, which could be pre- able on the extranet of the UPR.
ical of Indias record. There was wides- sented either orally or in writing.
pread criticism of the HRCs Additionally, a compilation pre- QUESTIONS TO INDIA
composition and behaviour. Some pared by the Ofce of the High Com- The report was considered on April 10,
states, notorious for their violation of missioner for Human Rights 2008. Forty-two statements were
human rights, got elected on that body (OHCHR) of the information con- made by various delegations. Those
and acted as judges on others conduct. tained in the reports of treaty bodies, from the Third World were benign.

8 2 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

The ofcial Summary of the Proceed-

ings of the Review Process and its
Conclusions and/or Recommenda-
tions make interesting reading. Here
are some revealing nuggets:
While welcoming the fact that In-
dia is a party to a number of interna-
tional human rights instruments, the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Northern Ireland noted that India has
not ratied the Convention against
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment,
or its Optional Protocol. It recom-
mended that India ratify both instru-
ments at the earliest opportunity. The
United Kingdom asked for additional
information on (a) reports of attacks
against persons from religious or other
minorities, in particular in Orissa
State; (b) steps to implement treaty
body recommendations on the Armed
Forces Special Powers Act; (c) anti-
conversion legislation; and (d) the
Communal Violence Crimes Bill. It
welcomed the involvement of civil so-
ciety in the national preparatory proc-
ess for the UPR session and
recommended that they be fully in-
volved in the follow-up to UPR.
Canada recognised that India is a
highly diverse country facing many
challenges. It raised issues concerning
the Armed Forces (Special Powers)
Act (AFSPA), the situation of civil so-
ciety and the situation of Dalits. Cana-
da referred to reports of torture and
abuse by and impunity of police and
security forces acting under the AF-
SPA. Canada spoke about the commit-
ment of the Prime Minister and the
studies undertaken to reform the AF-
SPA and asked what measures had
been taken to repeal or reform this Act.
Canada referred to India as a model
where civil society and democracy
ourishes and the press actively re-
ports on human rights abuses.
However, it mentioned allega-
tions about the use of the Foreign Con-
tribution Regulation Act in limiting
civil societys work on sensitive issues
and referred to reports that Amnesty
International had to downsize its work
on account of this Act. With reference
to the follow-up of the 2007 conclud-

F R O N T L I N E 8 3
Human Rights APRIL 10, 2009

ing observations on India adopted by conversion laws, (b) actions being un- it. It, therefore, recommended that In-
CERD [Committee on the Elimina- dertaken to combat police and govern- dia ratify the Convention as soon as
tion of Racial Discrimination], Cana- ment corruption, (c) implementation possible. Additionally, it encouraged
da recommended that India begin of child labour laws, (d) crimes against India to respond favourably to the re-
providing disaggregated data on caste women, including domestic violence, newed request made by the Special
and related discrimination. dowry-related deaths, honour crimes Rapporteur on the question of torture
Brazil asked several questions re- and sex-selective abortion of unborn to be permitted to carry out a mission
garding (a) the measures taken to pro- girls, and (e) the social acceptance of to the Indian territory as soon as pos-
mote the empowerment of women and caste-based discrimination. sible. Lastly, it recommended that a
the main policies taken to mainstream The Indian delegation said that standing invitation be extended by In-
gender into national plans, (b) the con- ratication of the Convention against dia to all the Councils special
crete measures implemented to com- Torture is being actively processed by procedures.
bat extreme poverty and (c) the the government. The Bharatiya Jana- Sweden raised two questions
evaluation of the strategy to end child ta Party-led National Democratic Alli- which it stated could also be seen as
labour. Additionally, Brazil proposed ance government signed it with great recommendations. India has ratied
that India consider signing and ratify- fanfare nearly a decade ago. Nearly a or acceded to several instruments of
ing the Optional Protocol to the Con- year has elapsed since the delegation international law relating to human
vention on the Elimination of All promised active processing. Nothing rights, but there are also a number of
Forms of Discrimination against has been done. Pray, what does the instruments to which it is not a party,
Women (CEDAW) as well as Interna- vague, readily abused word process notably, the Convention against
tional Labour Organisation (ILO) mean? It is not the Ministry of Ex- Torture, the Refugee Convention and
Conventions No. 138 concerning mini- ternal Affairs but the Home Ministry ILO Convention Nos. 138 and 182 re-
mum age for admission to employ- which creates problems. lating to child labour. It noted with
ment and No. 182 concerning the interest Indias intention to ratify the
prohibition and immediate action for
the elimination of the worst forms of Ratication of Convention against Torture and en-
couraged the government to do so.
child labour.
China asked how India intended to the Convention Indias bland denials verged on the
ridiculous. India noted that Canada,
implement the National Rural Em-
ployment Guarantee Programme fur- against Torture as well as others, referred to the im-
punity for human rights violations un-
ther. Considering the prohibition of
child labour, the Netherlands recom- is being actively der the Armed Forces Act which was
incorrect. India stated that no forces,
mended that India review its reserva-
tion to Article 32 of the Convention on processed armed or police, function with impun-
ity. Armed forces were under strict or-
the Rights of the Child and ratify ILO
Conventions No. 138 and 182. by the [Indian] ders not to transgress human rights
and the strictest action is taken, and
Germany asked India to provide
complementary information on (a) government. incidents are swiftly adjudicated by
procedures that include court-mar-
how recommendations made by the tials. Tell that to the Kashmiris. The
Committee on the Elimination of Ra- In the second round the Republic recent outrage in Sopore alone belies
cial Discrimination and CEDAW on of Korea asked for more information the claim. Regarding questions on
Dalits and Scheduled Castes were be- on Section 197 of the Code of Criminal minorities from Saudi Arabia and
ing followed up on, (b) what the posi- Procedure of 1973 regarding the im- Bangladesh, India noted that minor-
tion of the government was regarding punity of civil servants. Tellingly, ities, both religious and cultural, enjoy
the recommendation of several treaty Latvia noted Indias positive cooper- a very special status. Indeed, like
bodies to repeal the Armed Forces ation with the special procedures and Kashmirs special status?
(Special Powers) Act of 1958, and (c) stated that it would like India to con- The tabulation of Recommenda-
what concrete steps were being taken sider extending a standing invitation tion and Indias Response put out by
to implement national laws abolishing to all special procedures of the Human the OHCHR makes interesting read-
child labour. Rights Council. Switzerland referred ing. Note the bureaucratese evasion.
The United States of America ex- to the reported cases of torture, noted Requests for concrete action are met
pressed its satisfaction to see a nation by the Human Rights Committee and with profuse expressions of devotion to
as diverse as India engaged in the UPR the Special Rapporteur on the ques- the rights.
process. It asked for further details on tion of torture, and welcomed Indias The implication is clear. We are
(a) freedom of religion and expression signature of the Convention against perfect. We are doing ne. The action
and on the promulgation of state anti- Torture and its determination to ratify recommended is unnecessary.

8 4 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

Points to ponder
A few suggestions for consideration by the Election Commission and the media
and for national public debate. B Y V . R . K R I S H N A I Y E R

A provision we may consider candidates ofcially. This was decentralisation of

counting, and the results were made known quickly.
borrowing protably from the Soviet So much so, there was no tension or speculation, and
by late night information about the result of the
era election law is the right to recall counting would be available from the various polling
stations. The victory of the candidate was not in
an elected candidate for gross doubt; no tampering in the polling station or while
the boxes were in transit to the central polling station
misconduct for grave corruption or was possible.
This procedure quickens the completion of the
outrageous communalism. process; reduces tension and delay; and makes the
counting easier, with the numbers being manage-
NOW that the next general elections have be- able; and the entire outt at the polling booths han-
come a proximate, profound issue, decisive for the dles the counting effectively.
nations future and with creative potential for Indias
democratic survival, any improvement of the peo- THE SOVIET EXPERIENCE
ples participative and representative character of The second suggestion is what I thought worked well
the elections has a positive value and is welcome. in the Soviet Union under the election law. Every
To reduce the tension after the poll process is large hospital and large prison had a small polling
over, and before the procedure for counting is con- station. It may not be possible for many patients in
cluded in a populous parliamentary constituency, an the hospital to move to the polling station. But they
alternative suggestion or proposal for eliminating can vote safely if there is a polling station inside the
delay and foul play and malpractice with ballots is hospital, with the presence of the candidates or their
called for. What I suggest is the following: representatives, as in any other polling station, en-
When Benazir Bhutto was a candidate in Pakis- suring fair play. Many patients, who cannot other-
tans general elections several years ago, I happened wise vote because their illness prevents them from
to be an international observer. Of course, there were reaching their polling station, will be able to exercise
other leading gures from other countries too. To my their franchise by this harmless process.
surprise I found two novel features, which India may Similarly, central prisons in every State keep in
copy with modications as felt necessary. their custody many thousands of undertrials who are
One was that instead of the local police to main- otherwise entitled to vote. They cannot vote because
tain law and order, there were pickets of Army per- they happen to be in custody, though they may, after
sonnel located some distance away from the polling trial, be acquitted. Why deny them their vote if, by
station. I asked why the local police was kept away setting up a polling station in the prison, those who
and the Army was brought in. The reply was that the are entitled to vote under the law can do so, though
local political leaders could inuence the local police, for the time being they happen to be in custody. They
while the Army could not be inuenced. should not be deprived of their right to choose a
The second feature was phenomenal. At 5 p.m. representative.
polling ended, and when I went to the station, the Another suggestion is that every voter must have
returning ofcer told me that the counting in that the right to suggest a name, which he chooses to vote
polling station would begin a couple of hours later, at for, if he nds it difcult, conscionably, to vote for all
7 p.m., and every candidates representative would or any candidate as he nds them too bad to claim his
be present at the counter when objections could be approval. This, too, is a practice that once prevailed
raised and considered by the returning ofcer. The in the Soviet Union.
result of the counting would be communicated to the The Law Reforms Commission, Kerala, has

F R O N T L I N E 8 5
APRIL 10, 2009

made certain proposals that are akin to section (5), for the words or otherwise son absenting himself temporarily
what has been stated above. Those or in the lawful custody of the police, from his place of residence.
proposals are reproduced below: the words for a period more than one Amendment of Section 132: In
Amendment to the Kerala Pan- year or for an offence involving moral Section 132 of the principal Act, in
chayati Raj Act turpitude shall be substituted. Sub-section (5), for the words or oth-
Amendment to Section 21: In Sec- Amendment to the Kerala Mu- erwise, or is in the lawful custody of the
tion 21 of the principal Act, after Sub- nicipalities Act police, the words for a period more
section (2), the following explanation Amendment to Section 77: In Sec- than one year or for an offence in-
shall be added, namely: tion 77 of the Kerala Municipalities volving moral turpitude shall be
Explanation: A person who is de- Act 1994 (hereinafter referred to as the substituted.
tained as an undertrial prisoner in a principal Act), after Sub-section (2), In a State where parties are corrupt
jail or in custody of police or any other the following explanation shall be add- and candidates manipulate and win
agency or as an inpatient in any hospi- ed, namely: elections through money, muscle and
tal shall be considered as a person ab- Explanation: A person who is de- maa power, each voter will no longer
senting himself temporarily from his tained as an undertrial prisoner in a be disappointed, given the freedom to
residence. jail or is in the custody of police or any choose his candidate and cast his vote
Amendment to Section 76: In Sec- other agency or as an inpatient in any for him, provided the ballot paper con-
tion 76 of the principal Act, in Sub- hospital shall be considered as a per- tains an extra column for the voter to

IN BIHA R S B E G US A R A I district, people wait to vote in the Assembly elections in 2005.

8 6 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

cast his vote beyond the names formal-

ly printed in the ballot paper.
satisfactory. The purpose is to see that
democratic governance operates Our challenge
The process may be cumbersome
but is a check on corruption or maa
through candidates who effectively
represent the constituency better than today for the
manipulation of candidates, and en-
sures for the voter freedom of fran-
at present.
little Indian is
chise instead of being forced to choose
one among the party-chosen rotten
Women comprise half of the popula- to win back his
apples. A propaganda move by the
media and other publicity measures
tion in India, and if democracy is to
have sex egalite and women power right under the
may make this procedure available for
promoting clean elections.
with its real play in the governance of
the country, every political party con- Constitution.
These suggestions require national testing elections should provide half
debate and parliamentary legislation. I the number of candidates from among When India won Independence
hope the nation will see some sense in women. We nd a gross disproportion three score years ago, it made a great
the proposals I have made not with in the presence of women in the judici- tryst with destiny reminiscent of Abra-
dogmatic originality but from what I ary, the legislature and the executive. ham Lincolns historic Gettysburg
have observed working elsewhere as This gender injustice can be cor- speech, which I recall here:
rected only by the Election Commis- It is for us, the living, rather to be
sion insisting on every political party dedicated here to the unnished work
seeking to contest the election provid- which they who fought here have thus
ing the Election Commission with its far so nobly advanced. It is rather for
list of candidates in which half the us to be here dedicated to the great
number should be of women. Or, there task remaining before us; that from
must be more constituencies exclu- these honoured dead we take in-
sively for women, as there is for the creased devotion to that cause for
Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes at which they gave the last full measure of
present. There can be a provision to devotion; that we here highly resolve
make womens egalitarian participa- that the dead shall not have died in
tion by extensive reservation of con- vain; that this nation, under God, shall
stituencies for women only. have a new birth of freedom; and that
One provision we may consider government of the people, by the peo-
borrowing protably from the Soviet ple, and for the people, shall not perish
era election law is the right to recall an from the earth.
elected candidate for gross miscon- What the little man of India has
duct for grave corruption or outra- lost after 60 years of Independence is
geous communalism. In the Soviet the equal chance implied in the great
Union, I have read, such a provision sublime word democracy. It is histor-
existed and worked. Party candidates ically explained in the great Gettys-
had been successfully recalled on an burg speech of Abraham Lincoln and
appropriate motion and subject to further sharply presented by Winston
strict procedure. Churchill in an apt quoted passage,
In India today, corruption and which is given below:
communalism and other vices in elec- At the bottom of all the tributes
tions, and later by parliamentarians, paid to democracy is the little man
have reached Himalayan proportions walking into the little booth with a
that in extreme cases of proven mis- little pencil, making a little cross on a
behaviour are unworthy of members. little bit of paper. No amount of rheto-
There is no justication why a right of ric or voluminous discussion can pos-
statutory recall should not be made sibly diminish the overwhelming
under the Representation of the Peo- importance of that point.

ple Act. Our challenge today for the little

I seriously suggest that there be a Indian in large numbers is to win back
national debate on this subject and his right under the Constitution spelt
that recall becomes a voters right from out in the Preamble Part III, IV and IV
panchayats to Parliament. A of the suprema lex.

F R O N T L I N E 8 7
Column APRIL 10, 2009

Time to change
The current crisis is an excellent opportunity to reorganise economic life in the
developed world, making it less rapacious and more sustainable.

visit to Western Europe in manufacturing jobs from North to

A early March provided some

slightly different if unset-
tling insights into global
economic arrangements
and their socio-cultural coordinates.
As the crisis unfolds, people everywh-
ere are questioning current economic
South when the fact is that manufac-
turing employment has declined in the
developing world as a whole, has bare-
ly increased in most countries of Asia
and has actually declined since 1997 in
what is generally accepted to be the
workshop of the world, China.
institutions and processes. Naturally A member of the audience at a
enough, their fears, insecurities and public debate in London asked wheth-
concerns also affect their visions for er China and India, newly enriched by
the future. The fundamental issues re- exploiting the globalisation process,
late to income and resource distribu- would therefore use the current crisis
tion, but in this time of global crisis, as an opportunity to ride through the
the expression of these issues can be- global economic tsunami which
come sharper and even more openly
divisive in spirit.
Preoccupations threatens to engulf everyone else, and
emerge stronger than the United
Two features of some of the current States and Europe. A distinguished-
public responses in these societies are
JAYATI GHOSH looking and apparently eminent elder-
especially relevant in this context. The ly gentleman at a large conference in
rst is the barely concealed animosity based on underpriced labour is caus- Berlin was even sharper: China and
towards China and India (inevitably ing more than two billion people to India, he claimed, beneted from the
clubbed together, despite all the huge lead middle-class lives that draw un- Asian economic crisis in 1997-98 at the
differences) as perceived beneciaries sustainably on the worlds resources. cost of their neighbours, and now they
of globalisation and voracious con- will benet from the global crisis. An-
sumers of global resources. The second SHEER IGNORANCE other participant from the oor ex-
is the general inability to conceive of a Of course, sheer ignorance explains a pressed it slightly differently: These
way out of the current global economic lot. Among the general public in Eu- countries are not poor, they are full of
crisis without replicating the past even rope, and even in the more informed billionaires and have four out of ten of
though clearly those past trends can- sections, there is almost no realisation the worlds richest people, and yet they
not be sustained. of how globalisation has adversely af- come blaming us for the crisis and de-
European attitudes towards Asia fected livelihoods and employment of manding assistance from us.
have long been characterised by var- the majority of the population in the These are obviously not politically
ying combinations of fear and fascina- developing world, including in fast- correct positions, nor are they neces-
tion, respect and revulsion, growing Asian countries. The agrarian sarily even the majority view, since
competition and colonialism as stud- crisis is largely seen to be history, sup- they were opposed by other participa-
ies of Orientalism have made only too posedly vanquished by the rising pric- nts in each of these events. Yet, the
evident. But the current public percep- es of agricultural goods in world trade sheer honesty of their expression is
tions are somewhat different: fed by a between 2002 and mid-2008, even useful, since it provides some idea of
sensationalising media that cannot though farmers incomes continue to what must be a widespread underlying
waste time or space on complexities, stagnate and cultivation is still barely perception. And the concerns do not
they move in pendulum swings from viable in large parts of the developing relate only to potential shifts in geo-
seeing populous Asia as the breeding world. Because of the volumes of man- political or economic power. Even
ground for poverty and terrorism to ufacturing exports from Asia, there is among more progressive people in Eu-
believing that aggressive exporting still a widespread perception of shift of rope, there is a palpable fear (some-

8 8 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009


with visiting Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at the White House on March
14. The focus is on the U.S., and all eyes are on the Obama recovery package, since direct or indirect dependence on
exports to the U.S. is so great for most countries that this is seen as the only way for all economies to recover.
times unspoken and sometimes ex- mediately clear why rich countries diately. The implication is that waste-
pressed only in subtle and qualied with falling populations necessarily ful and excessive consumption is
arguments) that growing consump- need to increase their GDP, and why socially desirable because that is the
tion of such a large part of the worlds they should not focus, instead, on in- only way to preserve employment.
population will put an unbearable ternal redistribution and changing lif- Globally, too, policymakers are dis-
strain on global resources and, there- estyles, which could, in fact, improve playing the same startling lack of
fore, cannot really be supported. the quality of life of every citizen. imagination. The focus is on the U.S.
There is certainly some degree of The current crisis is an excellent and all eyes are on the Obama recovery
truth in this there is no question that even unique opportunity to bring package, since direct or indirect de-
current Northern standards of life about such shifts in socially created pendence on exports to the U.S. is so
cannot be sustained if they were made aspirations and material wants, and to great for most countries that this is
accessible to everyone on the planet. reorganise economic life in the devel- seen as the only way for all economies
This means that future economic oped world to be less rapacious and to recover. Yet, the U.S. simply cannot
growth in the developing world has to more sustainable. But, sadly, this mes- continue to be the engine of world
involve more equitable and sensible sage is not being heard at least among growth, given its huge external debt
patterns of consumption and produc- the major policymakers in the core and current decit, nor is it desirable
tion. But that hardly deals with the capitalist countries. In the U.S., even that it should do so. This creates an
basic problem. Even if the elite and the the relatively environment-friendly inevitable and urgent need for other
middle class of the developing world, Obama administration simply talks economies to redirect their trade and
particularly from China and India, just about promoting cleaner, greener investment, at least at the margin. This
stopped increasing their consumption, technologies rather than altering ab- also creates an opportunity for other
simply bringing the vast majority of surd and wasteful consumption pat- countries to think about generating
the developing worlds population to terns. For example, it is still basing its more sustainable, and possibly more
anything resembling a minimally ac- transport strategy on an excessive re- desirable, consumption patterns.
ceptable standard of living will involve liance on private automobile use rath- Why is it that so few people, espe-
extensive use of global resources. It er than on a more extensive and cially those in a position to inuence
will necessarily imply the use of more efcient public transport. economic policies today, are raising
natural resources and more carbon In Europe, too, the focus is on re- these rather obvious questions? What
emission. viving and increasing the old and per- we do not seem to realise is that unless
So the stark reality is that the de- haps outdated patterns of these basic issues are sorted out, we
veloped world must, on the whole, consumption. Italian Prime Minister will not only be marching with lem-
consume less of the worlds resources Silvio Berlusconi has pleaded with his ming-like intensity and desperation to
and reduce its contribution to global people not to change their lifestyles the sea but also be squabbling, ghting
warming absolutely. This, in turn, has because of this crisis, because that and even killing each other for the
effects on income as well. It is not im- would reduce economic activity imme- privilege of getting there rst.

F R O N T L I N E 8 9
Film APRIL 10, 2009

Tragedy of history
Hanna Schmitz in The Reader is responsible for the death of hundreds of Jews,
but why do we sympathise with her? B Y S H E L L E Y W A L I A

She nds no pleasure in cruelty, but tures that she probably wanted to make their last
days bearable; or did she send them to their death so
has acquired the faculty of shutting that her illiteracy remained a secret? Hanna
Schmitzs true guilt is her illiteracy, which becomes
her mind to it. She remains adamant an allegory for the contemporary misunderstanding
of the Holocaust. She is convicted and sentenced to
that her actions were in coherence life imprisonment.

with her sense of duty. A GERMAN FATE

Michael is left thinking: I wanted simultaneously to
THOUGH her provocative portrayal of the ex- understand Hannas crime and to condemn it. But it
Schutzstaffel (SS) guard Hanna Schmitz in The was too terrible for that. When I tried to understand
Reader won Kate Winslet the Oscar, it is fair to it, I had the feeling I was failing to condemn it as it
assume that Academy voters also took into account must be condemned. When I condemned it as it
her work in Revolutionary Road. All this speaks must be condemned, there was no room for un-
volumes about her persistence, warmth and commit- derstanding.... I wanted to pose myself both tasks
ment to work. understanding and condemnation. But it was impos-
Bernhard Schlinks novel The Reader (1995), on sible to do both the pain I went through because of
which the movie is based, tackles the problem of the my love for Hanna was, in a way, the fate of my
inability of succeeding generations of Germans to generation, a German fate.
respond to the tragedy of the Holocaust. The ideol- It is at the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration
ogy of mass murder has a history and a context in all camp that Michael meets an old man who gives him
its perversity and evil. his reasons for the complicity of those behind the
Set in 1958, in the city of Heidelberg, the novel/ Holocaust tragedy: An executioner is not under
lm begins with the short and passionate affair be- orders. Hes doing his work, he doesnt hate the
tween a 15-year-old schoolboy, Michael, and a 36- people he executes, hes not taking revenge on them,
year-old tram conductress, Hanna Schmitz, who has hes not killing them because theyre in his way or
him read to her from the classics before making love. threatening or attacking them. Theyre a matter of
She hides from him the fact that she cannot read or such indifference to him that he can kill them as
write, but he knows. The nude scenes are deeply easily as not.
aesthetic and coherent to the theme of dichotomy of In the novel, Bernhard Schlink asks himself and
passion and indifference. Then Hanna Schmitz dis- the reader: What should our second generation
appears suddenly, only to be discovered by Michael have done, what should it do with the knowledge of
eight years later at a war crimes trial. the horrors of the extermination of the Jews? We
She, along with a few others who had worked as should not believe we can comprehend the incom-
SS guards, are held guilty of allowing Jews in their prehensible, we may not compare the incomparable,
custody to die. When asked if she is the author of the we may not inquire because to make the horrors an
report on the re that killed the Jews, Hanna object of inquiry is to make the horrors an object of
Schmitz does not deny it. Michael is confused and discussion, even if the horrors themselves are not
horried that she regards the public exposure of her questioned, instead of accepting them as something
illiteracy far worse and humiliating than her in- in the face of which we can only fall silent in re-
volvement with the Nazi programme. vulsion, shame and guilt. Should we only fall silent in
During the trial it is revealed that Hanna revulsion, shame and guilt? To what purpose?
Schmitz had the terminally ill Jews read to her before The story derives its signicance from the com-
sending them to the gas chambers. Michael conjec- plex notions of justice and responsibility that it

9 0 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009


KATE WI N S L E T (H A N N A Schmitz) and David Kross (Michael) in a still from the lm.
throws up in the court scene, a location voked a heated discussion among duty. It is commonly held that the
for the conict between ethics and du- Western intellectuals, including Irving commitment of an evil deed must in-
ty. The public prosecutor asks Hanna Howe and Alfred Cazin. volve an evil heart or a criminal tem-
Schmitz to explain why she had al- Both the characters, the philoso- perament.
lowed more than 300 mothers and pher and the heroine of The Reader, But within Hannah Arendts con-
children to perish in the re when the carry the same rst name. It is for this cept of the banality of evil this is not
church in which the Jews were locked reason that the movie becomes intel- the case. You can very well commit a
up had come under heavy aerial bom- lectually challenging, when seen in the culpable deed without having a streak
bardment. light of Hannah Arendts philosophy of wickedness. Hannah Arendt argues,
She replies that as a guard on duty, on the banality of evil. Why do we It is, I think, a simple fact that people
she could not possibly open the doors sympathise with Hanna Schmitz? are at least as often tempted to do good
of the church to allow the prisoners to Her persecution goes down well and need an effort to do evil as vice
escape. She reasons that it never oc- with the Jewish lobby and those who versa.
curred to her to unlock the doors of the hold a traditional view of ethics and Hanna Schmitz has no pleasure in
blazing church; her sense of duty pre- morality. But seen in terms of her cruelty, but has acquired the faculty of
vails over any pity or sense of ethics sense of duty, the crime begins to take shutting her mind to it. This is regi-
and humanitarian rationale. Her in- on another shade of the responsibility mentation under a strict bureaucracy.
ability to see the reasons for her perse- of action. She lacks a criminal mind, as did Eich-
cution seems justied when seen in the Within the ambit of ones duty lies mann. The fact that Hanna Schmitz
light of the controversy over Hannah the question of behaviour according to passionately enjoys her teenage para-
Arendts article, Eichmann in Jerusa- the demands of the job in hand even if mour reading to her from the classics
lem. In 1963, Hannah Arendts articles it means death for some. This is the and that she permits him to make love
for The New Yorker on Adolf Eich- central paradox of any discussion on to her only after she has relished the
manns trial in an Israeli court pro- the philosophical issue of ethics and reading shows that her reprehensible

F R O N T L I N E 9 1
APRIL 10, 2009

Adolf Eichmann, one of Adolf Hitlers lieutenants, in Jerusalem on December 11, 1961. Eichmann,
seen in the glass cage, was involved in the deportation of Jews to the gas chambers. He did not have any pangs of
conscience about it and felt that he was fullling the demands of an assignment.

act does not come from an evil mind. to think from the point of view of Immanuel Kant who dened judg-
Eichmanns involvement in the de- others. ment as the faculty which always
portation of hundreds of Jews to the In a deeply regimented totalitarian comes into play when we are confront-
gas chambers does not give him any state, individualism amounts to incon- ed with particulars. There are no rules
pangs of conscience; it is the result of a sequential actions. What if one re- that can be applicable to circumstanc-
deep-seated desire to full the de- volts? Ones removal will not mean the es that in a particular situation appear
mands of an assign- arrival of another re- unique. At the human level, the choic-
ment. Personal bel. It would end in a es we make determine our destiny and
feelings or the sense of more controlled au- dene our ideological stance. Rules are
morality are not per- tonomy under a harsh- too conventional and narrow in scope
mitted to interfere er bureaucratic system to cover the paradoxes and ironies of
with the sense of duty. that co-opts more plia- our existence.
All his life, he had ble recruits into the In order not to reveal to the world
shown an acute sense system. And in such a that she is an illiterate, Hanna Schmitz
of law and morality system, one confronts refuses to admit that she is not the
that dominated his ev- two kinds of people, in- author of the order made out against
ery action. When it tellectuals who have the prisoners. This lie would cost her a
came to organising the the conviction and the lifetime in prison followed by suicide.
deportation, he single- mind to rebel, and the But to the end she remains adamant
mindedly saw to it that others who consider that her actions were in coherence
the job in hand reac- themselves as normal with her sense of duty. She donates her

hed its conclusion. To and value conformism meagre wealth to the Jewish cause be-
Hannah Arendt, it was A D O LF EI C H M A N N . H E ed and obedience to the fore dying, but nowhere is there any
more a case of thought- to Argentina after the rules of the state. repentance. Justice and responsibility
lessness than a mon- Second World War but was Hannah Arendt, are after all not all that unambiguously
strosity, an incapacity arrested in 1960. therefore, agrees with simple concepts to deal with.

9 2 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

Solar spectacle
The total solar eclipse that will occur on July 22 will be one of the most important
astronomical events of this century for India. B Y A M A L E N D U B A N D Y O P A D H Y A Y

The path of totality will pass over a

good number of cities and several
densely populated areas of the
countryside; this will happen next
only in 2114. It will be the longest
solar eclipse until 2132.
THE total eclipse of the sun that will occur on
July 22, 2009, will be one of the most important


astronomical events of this century for India as the
path of totality will pass over a good number of cities
and several densely populated areas of the country-
side. Moreover, the next solar eclipse whose totality
track will pass over the thickly populated areas of
India is to occur in 2114, that is, after a gap of over
100 years. This eclipse is of special signicance also
because it will be the longest solar eclipse of this
century, with totality lasting more than 6.6 minutes THE D I AM ON D R I N G effect, photographed during
at maximum. This will make it the longest total solar the eclipse on October 24,1995.
eclipse until 2132.
Of the many astronomical phenomena of interest light from only a part of the suns disc as shown in
to the layman as well as the professional astronomer, Diagram 1.
and visible to the naked eye, a total solar eclipse is the To an observer who is within the umbra, the sun
most spectacular. Rarely does the track of totality will appear completely covered by the moon, that is,
pass over thickly populated regions, but if one is near a total solar eclipse (Diagram 1-b). If the observer is
the path, it is worth travelling to the area to witness within the penumbra, the moons disc will appear
the eclipse. projected onto the suns disc so as to cover it partly,
that is, a partial solar eclipse (Diagram 1-c). An
CAUSE OF SOLAR ECLIPSE annular eclipse occurs when the moon is directly
An eclipse of the sun is caused by the inter-position between the earth and the sun but the umbra does
of the dark body of the moon between the earth and not reach the earth (Diagram 1-a).
the sun so that the shadow of the moon sweeps over If the plane of the moons orbit around the earth
the face of the earth. It can occur only during the new coincided with the ecliptic (that is, the plane of the
moon, when the moon is in conjunction with the sun. earths orbit around the sun), an eclipse of the sun
In other words, an eclipse of the sun occurs when the would take place at every new moon, that is, at
moon passes so near the line between the earth and intervals of about 29 days. But this is not so. The
the sun as to cut off some or all of the suns light. This moons orbit is actually inclined about ve degrees to
shadow consists of two parts: the umbra, or total the ecliptic, and it is only when the moon happens to
shadow, a cone into which no direct sunlight pene- be at or near one of the nodes where the orbits
trates; and the penumbra, or half shadow, which gets intersect that the three bodies are nearly in the same

F R O N T L I N E 9 3
APRIL 10, 2009

line and an eclipse can occur. At other such a close distance, the moon ap-
times, the shadow of the moon just pears fully 8 per cent larger than the
disappears into space. sun and casts a broader than usual
FREQUENCY OF ECLIPSES In the observation of a solar
In a year, there can be a minimum of eclipse, four contacts are recognised:
two eclipses, both solar, and a maxi- the rst when the edge of the moon
mum of seven eclipses, out of which rst touches the edge of the sun, the
four may be solar and three lunar or second when the eclipse becomes total
ve solar and two lunar. The track of or annular, the third at the cessation of
totality is narrow never more than the total or annular phase, and the
269 kilometres and as such the fourth when the moon nally leaves
chances of seeing a total eclipse from the suns disc. From the rst contact to
any given locality are small. In the long the fourth, the time can even be a little
run a total eclipse of the sun happens over four hours.
at a particular place only once in about The last total solar eclipse whose
360 years. age speed of 3,400 km an hour, its path of totality passed over India oc-
The sun is 1,392,000 km in diame- shadow sweeps eastward across the curred on August 11, 1999, but this
ter and the moon is only 3,476 km in earth at the same speed. The earth, eclipse lost its importance as the phase
diameter. To us on the earth, the two however, is rotating towards the east in of totality was visible just before sunset
bodies appear about the same size be- the same general direction. Since at mainly from a few locations in Gujarat.
cause while the diameter of the sun is the equator the earths surface moves The total solar eclipse on February
about 400 times that of the moon, the at about 1,670 km an hour, the shadow 16, 1980, was of particular interest to
sun is also about 400 times as far away. moves relative to the earth at about astronomers in India as there was a
It is then to be regarded as a circum- 1,730 km an hour. In higher latitudes, well-observable totality phase in India
stance fortunate for the advancement where the velocity of the earths sur- for the rst time in the 20th century.
of astronomical science that the spatial face is less, the shadows relative speed The previous total solar eclipse seen
relationship of the sun, the moon and is higher. over central India occurred on January
the earth are as they happen to be. In The tip of the truncated cone of the 22, 1898 the solar eclipse of 1980
fact, a very small decrease in the angu- umbra of the moons shadow sweeps embraced the Indian subcontinent af-
lar diameter of the moon relative to along a thin band across the earths ter a long gap of 82 years.
that of the sun would have rendered surface and the phase of totality of the Of course, after a gap of only 15
improbable this most sublime specta- eclipse is observed successively along years, on October 24, 1995, the path of
cle of a total eclipse of the sun. it. Because of the shadows speed, to- totality of another solar eclipse swept
tality is brief. The path across the earth over thickly populated areas of India,
ECLIPSE PATTERNS within which a total solar eclipse is and a very large number of people and
The Chaldean astronomers in about visible is called the path of totality. astronomers were able to witness it.
400 B.C. discovered that eclipses occur Within about 3,000 km on either
in regular succession at an interval of side of the path of totality, a partial PATH OF THE JULY ECLIPSE
18 years and 11 1/3 days. This cycle is eclipse is visible, the observer being The path of totality of the July 22
known as the Chaldean Saros. Saros located in the penumbra of the sha- eclipse will start just off the western
comes from a Greek word for repeti- dow. An eclipse of the sun observed at coast of India and cross India, the ex-
tion. The exact interval is 223 luna- a location near the equator under the treme north of Myanmar and China to
tions, or 6,585.3 days. The Saros cycle most favourable conditions namely, end in the Pacic Ocean among the
provides a simple method of predic- when the moon is nearest to the earth Hawaiian islands. The totality phase
ting the eclipses. But though the and the sun is at its farthest from the will begin at 6-23 a.m. IST and end at
eclipse repeats itself every Saros cycle, earth may be a total one for 7 min- 9-48 a.m. IST. This eclipse will be vis-
it is not visible from the same place on utes, the maximum possible duration. ible as a partial eclipse from the east-
the earth. Since the cycle is one-third Such an eclipse will be visible in India ern part of Africa, Madagascar, Asia,
of a day longer than 18 years and 11 on July 5, 2168 the longest eclipse in part of Indonesia, the extreme north-
days, when the eclipse recurs, the earth human history. east tip of Australia and the extreme
will have spun one-third of a rotation The long totality phase of the July northern part of North Island, New
farther east and the eclipse will occur 22, 2009, eclipse will mainly be be- Zealand. The partial phase will begin
to the west of where it did earlier. cause the eclipse will start just a few at 5-28 a.m. and end at 10-42 a.m. IST.
As the moon moves eastward in its hours after the moon reaches its peri- The umbra of the moons shadow
orbit with respect to the sun at an aver- gee (closest approach to the earth). At will rst touch the earth off the west-

9 4 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

( LE FT) THE P A TH of totality

passing over India. (Above)
The gobal path of totality.
six minutes and 39 seconds; the suns
altitude will be 86.
The countdown to the phase of to-
tality is dramatic. Three minutes be-
fore totality, the sky darkens, some
owers fold up, and wildlife, especially
birds, exhibit nocturnal behaviour.
The landscape takes on unusual colour
tones. Only a narrow crescent of the
ern coast of India at sunrise at 6-23 IST. The width of the path of totality sun can be seen, sunlight ltering
a.m. Within seconds, the coastal city of will be 218 km here. Allahabad (Uttar through the foliage of trees forms cres-
Surat (Gujarat) will be plunged into Pradesh) will just miss the totality cent-shaped images on the ground.
darkness for three minutes and 17 sec- track and experience a signicant par- From atop a hill, if one looks to-
onds. Here the sun is only 3 above the tial phase of magnitude 0.999. wards the western horizon about two
eastern horizon, but the altitude of the Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) and Pat- minutes before totality, one can see the
eclipse will rapidly increase as the um- na (Bihar) both lie within the shadows umbral shadow of the moon approach-
bra rushes east. Vadodara (Gujarat) path. About 500 km to the south-east, ing at about 3,000 km an hour. About
will be on the northern limit of totality the populace of Kolkata (West Bengal) one minute before totality, curious
and will experience darkness for one will be able to view a partial eclipse of moving ripples of dark and light bands
minute and 19 seconds. magnitude 0.911. The track of the um- appear on any smooth white surface.
The umbral shadow will take just bral shadow will sweep over Darjeel- These shadow bands (as they are
eight minutes to cross India. The sha- ing and Siliguri, both in West Bengal; called) are a curious atmospheric phe-
dow will reach Indore (Madhya Pra- Gangtok in Sikkim; Thimphu in Bhu- nomenon. In the last few seconds, light
desh), which will be plunged into tan (here the umbral path width will be falls rapidly, it becomes cooler and the
totality for three minutes and 13 sec- 224 km); Dibrugarh in Assam; and wind tends to drop. And then the real
onds; here the altitude of the sun is Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh and drama begins.
merely 6 above the horizon. Bhopal then across northern Myanmar before In the last instant before totality,
(Madhya Pradesh) lies 40 km north of the entire shadow enters Chinas Yun- the only visible parts of the sun are
the central line. Even at this distance, nan province. Guwahati (Assam) will those that shine through the lower val-
it will succumb to three minutes and 12 just miss the umbral track and experi- leys in the moons irregular prole and
seconds of the total phase. ence a deep partial eclipse of magni- line up along the periphery of the ad-
Approximately 400 km north of tude 0.998. vancing edge of the moon. This gives
the path, the Taj Mahal in Agra (Uttar The instant of greatest eclipse will one the impression of watching a bril-
Pradesh) will experience a deep partial occur at 8 hours 5 minutes 19 seconds liant beaded necklace the phenome-
phase of magnitude 0.906 (magnitude IST at a location in the Pacic Ocean non is known as Bailys beads. The
is the fraction of the suns diameter (latitude 24 13 N, longitude 144 07 nal ash of sunlight through a lunar
obscured by the moon) at 6-26 a.m. E) where the duration of totality will be valley produces a brilliant are

F R O N T L I N E 9 5
APRIL 10, 2009

L U NA R V A L L E YS , T HRO U GH which
the suns rays pass to create the
diamond ring and Bailys beads
effects just before totality. (Right)
Bailys beads and a sun ringed by
the glow of prominences,
photographed on July 11, 1991, from
the Baja peninsula.
known as the diamond ring effect. Af-
ter the diamond ring disappears, if one
looks at the crescent of the sun through
a pair of binoculars, one can see the
beautiful ash spectrum. The chro-
mosphere (the suns lower atmo-
sphere, which lies just above its visible
photosphere) blazes away in full glory,
an indication that totality has just The corona is the most striking fea- radiation should effectively be cut off.
commenced. ture of a total eclipse. The bright inner The most effective ltering aid is a
At this moment, one can see red corona contains elegantly shaped dark X-ray plate of sufcient thick-
and orange jets of re shooting up. arches and loops that taper off into the ness. Another safe device is the dark
Known as prominences, they reach to fainter streamers of the outer corona. arc welders glass. The intensity of the
heights of a few million kilometres These various forms are created by the uneclipsed portion, even when it be-
above the solar surface. Prominences solar magnetic eld. The shape of the comes a thin crescent, remains high
of various shapes and sizes are seen corona varies with the 11-year solar enough to cause permanent or partial
during totality as pink ame-like pro- cycle. Totality ends as abruptly as it blindness. During the phase of totality,
jections. The larger ones are visible begins. The corona vanishes, and the one does not require any lters.
throughout totality, while the smaller features of the partial eclipse now re- The progress of a solar eclipse can
ones appear and disappear as the ad- cur in reverse order. Finally, the moon be observed safely by holding a piece of
vancing moon uncovers or covers leaves the suns disc. During a total cardboard with a one-millimetre-di-
them. eclipse, sunlight is greatly reduced and ameter hole in it above a white surface,
After this phase, the bright disc of bright stars and the planets become such as a concrete pavement. The hole
the sun is entirely hidden behind the visible to the naked eye, the planet in the cardboard produces a pinhole
moon, and the corona the suns outer Venus and Sirius, the brightest star, camera image of the sun. With a small
atmosphere consisting of sparse gases being the most prominent among telescope, the suns image can be pro-
that extend millions of kilometres in these. jected onto a piece of paper held at the
all directions from the apparent sur- correct distance with the help of a xed
face ashes into view. It is ordinarily PRECAUTIONS frame. It will help to keep this piece of
not visible because the light from the How must one witness a solar eclipse? paper within a small, empty, dark
corona is feeble compared with that Watching a partially eclipsed sun is as wooden box with no lid. This may well
from the underlying layers of the sun, hazardous to the naked eye as the un- be the safest device with which to
but when the brilliant glare from the eclipsed one. For safe direct viewing, watch an eclipse; also many people can
suns visible disc, or photosphere, is the intensity of sunlight should be re- watch it simultaneously.
blotted out during an eclipse, the pear- duced at least 100,000 times and the Why are expeditions from many
ly-white corona becomes visible. ultraviolet and infrared part of solar countries sent out to observe a total

9 6 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

solar eclipse in spite of the enormous

expenditure involved? Because the sun
is the one star whose atmosphere we
can study in minute detail and whose
visible activity provides us with valua-
ble clues to the behaviour of the mil-
lions of other stars that populate our
galaxy. Eclipses also offer opportuni-
ties to observe features near the suns
edge that are ordinarily concealed by
the glare. The corona can be studied
both visually and spectroscopically on-
ly during a total eclipse.
Many important discoveries have
been made in the past through total
eclipse observations. The rst attempt
to photograph the corona for studies of
its structure was made during the
eclipse of July 28, 1851. During the
eclipse of August 17, 1868, when the
path of totality passed over India, the
astronomer Pierre Jules Cesar Janssen
of the famous Meudon Observatory of
France camped in the tobacco elds of
Guntur in Andhra Pradesh and detect-
ed the existence of an unknown ele-
ment on the suns surface. Since it was
rst seen on the sun, it was named
after Helios (the Greek word for the
sun), and that is how the element heli-
um came to be discovered. That is why appear about one minute before totality,
it is said that solar physics was born in photographed by an astronomer from Sicily; (inset) the sun at that moment.
1868 in the tobacco elds of Guntur.
Albert Einsteins theory of relativ- around 75 per cent. But in spite of the That the sun is the source of the
ity was rst tested during the total so- gloomy cloud statistics, there is still a energy that sustains life on the earth
lar eclipse of May 29, 1919, when ghting chance of sunshine, and in has been realised from the earliest
starlight was proved to be deected by some spots, the statistics tilt to the times. As a result of the realisation of
the suns gravitational eld. Hitherto good side of 50/50. the essential part played by the sun in
undetected comets may be found in The satellite observations of clou- our lives, people have from ancient
the vicinity of the sun during totality. diness compiled by the National Aero- times feared a blacking out of the sun,
In the third week of July, the mon- nautics and Space Administration perhaps more than any other natural
soon season will be at its height in (NASA) show a minimum in the cen- phenomenon. The main point that
India, and as such, along the entire tral line cloud cover just east of Patna. should be realised is that all super-
track of totality, the season will be hu- This region, along the Ganga river, lies stitions associated with solar eclipses
mid with frequent clouds and rain. north of the 700-metre-high Chhota- became prevalent all over the world
Satellite data reveal an especially high nagpur plateau. because of absolute ignorance of the
chance of cloud along the central line The air descending from the plat- science. It is only in comparatively re-
of totality in India, with average day- eau to the river will be warm and dry, cent times that people came to un-
time amounts oscillating wildly slightly decreasing the cloudiness. derstand that eclipses do not mean the
This should lower the average cloud end of the world and that few scientic
REFERENCES cover to a more tolerable 63 per cent in events can vie with them in terms of
i) Indian Astronomical Ephemeris 2009 the vicinity of Patna. Dibrugarh, at the interest and beauty.
computed by the head of the Brahmaputra valley, will Professor Amalendu Bandyopadhyay
Positional Astronomy Centre, Kolkata. have an average cloudiness of 86 per is a senior scientist at the M.P. Birla
ii) NASAs Total Solar Eclipse of 2009,
July 22, Espenak and Anderson 2008. cent according to surface-based cloud Institute of Fundamental Research,
observations. M.P. Birla Planetarium, Kolkata.

F R O N T L I N E 9 7
Column APRIL 10, 2009

Fences & windows

As India responds to multiple crises in its immediate neighbourhood, it needs to
rethink its strategic vision and policy radically.

AKISTAN, which was tee- act in the coming days and weeks in an

P tering on the brink of an

all-out confrontation be-
tween President Asif Ali
Zardaris regime and the
combined forces of the lawyers move-
ment and the Pakistan Muslim League
(Nawaz), has pulled back from the pre-
effort to shore up his authority with-
out the manipulative legal instru-
ments that were available to him
under outgoing Chief Justice Abdul
Hamid Dogar.
By all reckoning, Zardari has also
lost a good deal of the support he en-
cipice, at least for the moment. In a joyed within his Pakistan Peoples Par-
dramatic development, Prime Minis- ty (PPP), to whose co-chairmanship he
ter Yusuf Raza Gillani announced on was catapulted after Benazir Bhuttos
day ve of the Long March for the tragic killing. Not only did he not have
restoration of sacked Chief Justice If- a sustained and organic relationship
tikhar Chaudhary that his government with the PPP, he also marginalised and
has conceded the demand and will also antagonised its better-known leaders,
petition the Supreme Court against
declaring former Prime Minister Na-
Beyond the including former presidential aspirant
Makhdoom Amin Fahim, lawyers
waz Sharif and his brother and former
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif
Obvious movement leader Aitzaz Ahsan, and
Benazir Bhuttos condants Naheed
ineligible for elected ofce. Khan and Safdar Abbasi.
Political reconciliation seems to be
PRAFUL BIDWAI However, three things are clear.
in the air. But the real test of Pakistans First, Zardari will be under intense
civilian leadership has only just begun. staved off, but only just. The conse- pressure to abide by the Charter of
It speaks volumes about Pakistans in- quences of Chaudharys reinstatement Democracy that Benazir Bhutto and
stability and the depth of its systemic are yet to be seen. If he rules against Nawaz Sharif signed in May 2006,
crisis that it was only after the inter- the October 2007 National Reconcil- pledging to work cooperatively to-
vention of Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez iation Ordinance, which dropped cor- wards full democratisation and to keep
Kayani that the crisis was defused at ruption cases against Zardari and his the Army and external powers out of
the very last hour. Crucial, too, were assassinated wife Benazir Bhutto and meddling in civilian affairs.
mediatory efforts by the United States allowed them to be rehabilitated, the Second, he will be asked to dene
and the United Kingdom demanding existing political arrangements in Pa- the precise functions and powers of the
that Zardari, Gillani and the Sharifs kistan would come down like a house President vis-a-vis the Prime Minister
sort out their differences or face an of cards. and Parliament. The present dualism
aid cut-off. If Chaudhary declares the Novem- of an executive presidency and an
Clearly, Pakistans turbulent polit- ber 2007 Provisional Constitutional elected Prime Minister is not sus-
ical situation is no longer amenable to Order of former President Pervez tainable. Nor can the President legiti-
resolution on the basis of its internal Musharraf null and void, a large num- mately hope to continue to wield the
and civilian resources and processes ber of appointments made to the high- excessive powers he has under the
alone. Its institutions, damaged and er judiciary would be annulled. If he much disliked Article 58(2)(b) of the
corrupted by prolonged military rule, pursues the cases of missing people, Constitution, including the power to
and weakened by its inept and frac- some of them believed to have been dismiss an elected government and
tious civilian leadership, cannot en- handed over to the U.S., that can open dissolve Parliament. This could trigger
sure a secure transition to democracy a can of worms. changes in power balances and launch
with a bare minimum of legitimacy However much Zardari pretends new contestations.
and stability. otherwise, it is incontrovertible that he Third, and most important, the
A political catastrophe has been has lost face. It is not clear how he will present formula to defuse the confron-

9 8 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009



P U SH P A K A M A L D A H A L Prachanda, Prime Minister of Nepal; Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan; Sheikh
Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh; Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka.
tation centred around Choudharys re- this. The Army is either unwilling, or economic decline, movement of refu-
instatement in no way resolves the worse, unable to fully join the ght gees and internally displaced persons,
long-term, profound and foundational against the Taliban in Pakistan. and so on.
crisis in which Pakistan is trapped, Nor is it wholeheartedly cooperat- Pakistan scores badly on (8 or
which is at the root of its political tur- ing with the U.S.-led forces in Afghan- higher on a worsening scale of 10) on
moil, social disarray and growing un- istan, which would help break the all but two of these criteria. Pakistans
governability. nexus between the Al Qaeda-Taliban slow unravelling will have dreadful
This crisis manifests itself in perva- in Afghanistan and Baitullah Meh- consequences for the entire South
sive and rapid growth of religious ex- suds Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. This Asian region, including Afghanistan.
tremism and jehadi terrorism in has only aggravated the Armys legiti- We cannot afford to be indifferent to
society; the Taliban takeover of the macy crisis. this or to indulge in nger-pointing.
Swat valley, large chunks of the North- With all its institutions in disarray,
west Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Pakistani state is unravelling. Pa- THE INDIAN STATES ATTITUDE
the Federally Administered Tribal Ar- kistan is not quite imploding, but pow- However, the Indian state shows few
eas (FATA); imbalances between civil- er within it is increasingly fragmented signs of comprehending the full di-
ian and military power centres; ethnic and the State does not control large mensions and consequences of Pakis-
strife and insurgencies in the smaller swathes of its territory. tans unravelling. Many in the Indian
provinces; discontent at the preponde- establishment show a certain schaden-
rance of people from Punjab in go- FAILED STATES INDEX freude at Pakistans plight and claim it
vernment and the Army; increasing This phenomenon is captured by the represents just deserts for its past use
lack of integrity and efcacy of the law- notion of the failed or failing state. of terrorism as an instrument of state
and-order apparatus; unaccountabil- Pakistan ranks ninth in the Failed policy. They indulge in self-congrat-
ity of the intelligence services; and de- States Index compiled for 2008 by ulatory contrasts with India. Some, es-
clining personal security and forced Foreign Policy, a magazine of the Fund pecially in strategic community, are
migration. for Peace (U.S.). Somalia holds the undecided if they accept the proposi-
rst rank, Sudan the second, and Zim- tion that peaceful coexistence between
MILITANCY GONE AWRY babwe the third. Pakistan is just two Indian and Pakistan is impossible.
Pakistan is wracked by a rising tide of ranks below Afghanistan, and margin- This speaks of dangerous compla-
terrorism and religious extremism. ally higher than war-ravaged Central cency and smugness. A collapsing or
The Army has no coherent strategy to African Republic and Guinea. Talibanised Pakistan will be a grave
deal with it. It has allowed the Afghan The Index may not be perfect, but danger to India in every way. If Pakis-
Talibans Quetta Shura to ourish and it is a good pointer. Twelve criteria are tan is unable to control the extremist
provided sanctuary to its militants in used to compile it, including the states militancy that is now devouring it, the
the border areas. But its calculation criminalisation and delegitimisation, violence will inevitably spread to India
that it would achieve its objective of progressive deterioration of public ser- and endanger our citizens already
creating strategic depth in Afghan- vices, widespread human rights vio- fragile security. The jehadis will nd
istan and still control Pakistans in- lations, a state within a state security new recruits here. A Hindutva back-
ternal jehadi militancy has gone awry. apparatus, legacy of vengeance-seek- lash to this will put pressure on the
Benazir Bhuttos assassination, the ing groups, the rise of factionalised state to take draconian (but eventually
Marriott Hotel attack, and the recent elites, uneven economic development counterproductive) measures to con-
Lahore attack all bear testimony to along group lines, sharp and/or severe tain violence. This will degrade and

F R O N T L I N E 9 9
Column APRIL 10, 2009

devalue Indian democracy, jeopardis- surveillance and tracking, and helicop- ters of the Ganges through the Farakka
ing our greatest achievement, and ters, to the SLAF. Without Indias sup- barrage which caused enormous wa-
disorienting the society and distorting port, the SLAF could not have ter scarcity and economic distress
its priorities. prosecuted the war successfully. But have indeed created that impression.
India needs to develop a compre- New Delhi has done little to translate India must correct it.
hensive and holistic paradigm which this leverage and the considerable
would help it understand, analyse and diplomatic clout it enjoys to secure NEPAL
respond to Pakistan. This will mean veriable assurances that civilians will Nepal is perched at a fateful moment
addressing some of Pakistans insecur- not be targeted and will instead be in its history as it makes a transition to
ities vis-a-vis India by, for instance, allowed to leave the war zone through a constitutional republic. New Delhi
pulling out troops from Jammu and safe corridors. has played its cards all wrong several
Kashmir and further pacifying the Second, India has had a history of times in Nepal, supporting the King
border, and by curbing military expen- intervening in Sri Lankan affairs in just as he was about to be sent packing
ditures and negotiating nuclear risk- ways that have greatly complicated the by the pro-democracy movement. It
reduction measures. It also entails en- situation there by training and arm- must correct its course by honouring
gaging Pakistani civil society and ing the LTTE in 1983-86, and sending the Nepali governments wish to rene-
political parties, and building strategic the Indian Peace-Keeping Force in a gotiate the trade, and transit treaty
alliances with all the forces that stand disastrous operation in 1987. India and work out an equitable water-shar-
for moderation and democratisation cannot suddenly wash its hands off by ing agreement.
in Pakistan. refusing to mobilise a diplomatic ini- Water will be a crucial component
India needs to develop similar tiative through the U.N. to press Col- in Indias relation with Nepal (and
cooperative approaches towards its ombo to allow the civilians safe Bangladesh). Indias access to the
other neighbours too, especially Sri passage, and provide them sorely shared waters of rivers originating in
Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal, each of needed food and other supplies, and the Himalayas hold a key to sustain-
which confronts India with difcult above all, medical treatment. able development of hydroelectricity
choices. India has just sent a 52-member and water resources in the underdeve-
military medical mission to Pulmod- loped east. It is imperative that India
SRI LANKAN CRISIS dai in the northeast. But this is not and Nepal launch a major cooperative
The topmost priority is Sri Lanka, adequate. A much bigger international development project in which river
where a massive humanitarian crisis effort is called for, which India must waters and downstream industry
has arisen as the Sri Lankan Armed catalyse all the more because the U.S. based on hydroelectricity play a vital
Forces (SLAF) pursue their war has reportedly shelved the evacuation role.
against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil plans which it was earlier considering. To do all this, India must overcome
Eelam (LTTE). The war is largely justi- and discard the Curzonian legacy of its
ed. But the fate of the 1,50,000 to BANGLADESH foreign policy thinking, which aims to
2,50,000 civilians trapped in the war India similarly needs to engage Ban- establish India as the dominant power
zone is a cause for concern. gladesh and Nepal, where new govern- in Eurasia as its natural destiny de-
According to several independent ments are in power. The Bangladesh rived from the British Empire.
reports by the Human Rights Watch, Ries mutiny was an alarming devel- New Delhi needs an equitable,
the International Crisis Group and the opment. It was reportedly planned in generous, inclusive and cooperative
United Nations High Commissioner response to Prime Minister Sheikh relationship with its neighbours, with
for Human Rights Navanethan Pillay Hasinas decision to open war crimes which they feel at ease. To develop this,
both the SLAF and the LTTE have cases against hardline-Islamist collab- the government should move out of
been targeting civilians or using them orators of Pakistan during the liber- the narrow connes of consultations
as human shields. Since January 20, ation struggle of 1971 and the with the incestuous and closed group
over 2,800 people have been killed and assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rah- of serving and former diplomats, sol-
7,000 injured. The current level of man in 1975. There is reason to fear diers, and strategic experts.
civilian casualties is truly shocking, that the conspirators were Jamaat-e- Instead, it should involve a much
there are legitimate fears that the loss Islami leaders closely allied with Pa- broader set of people, including social
of life may reach catastrophic levels if kistani intelligence agencies and jeha- scientists with genuine expertise in
the ghting continues this way, says di groups. South Asian languages, cultures and
Pillay. That apart, India needs to express political traditions, international rela-
India has a special responsibility solidarity with the Hasina government tions theorists, and civil society orga-
towards the trapped civilians, on two without being seen to be playing Big nisations, in the process of strategic
counts. First, India has provided cru- Brother. Many past Indian actions, in- review and policy formulation for the
cial logistical support, including radar cluding unilateral diversion of the wa- region.

1 0 0 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

Painful credit
If the use of credit cards has grown enormously, so has dissatisfaction among
cardholders over the stranglehold of the card issuers. B Y E R A S E Z H I Y A N

If the Reserve Bank of Indias policy of spreading

the banking habit to rural areas is to succeed,
banks should use the local language in order to

enlighten people on the benets of banking.

A CREDIT card, named after the small plastic Commission (NCDRC) ruled that charging of in-
card issued by a bank or a non-banking financial terest at rates in excess of 30 per cent per annum was
company (NBFC), enables its holder to buy goods an unfair trade practice.
and services based on the holders promise to pay for The NCDRC took notice of the fact that Indian
those goods and services. In this system, the issuer of credit-card-holders pay some of the highest interest
the card grants a line of credit to the user from which rates in the world, whereas their American counter-
the user borrows money to pay to the vendor, and parts pay about 13 per cent only. It added: The
thus it becomes cash advance to the user. Normally, default rates in mature markets like the United
the purchases made by the cardholder are to be paid States are very low, still it does not fully explain the
in full each month. The card issuers usually waive high rates charged in India.
interest if the balance is paid in full each month. Holding the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) respon-
There is also a debit card system, which allows sible for the current state of affairs, the NCDRC said:
immediate withdrawal of funds by an electronic If the RBI is considered to be one of the watchdogs
cheque directly from either the bank account or from of nance and economy of the nation and the prevail-
the remaining balance in the card. The debit card is ing credit conditions are such as should invite its
not popular in India as the merchant is charged for policy intervention, then, in our view, there is no
each transaction. The debit card is used mostly for justiable ground for not controlling the banks
ATM (automated teller machine) transactions. which exploit the borrowers by charging exorbitant
It may appear that a credit card is a convenient rates.
instrument to go shopping as, under the buy now, About the exorbitant rate of interest put on the
pay later system, the cardholder is able to buy things credit-card-holders in India, there was a news item
at random without immediate payment in cash. The in July 2007 in the International Herald Tribune
crunch comes when the accumulated expenditures stating: Rates and fees frustrate credit card users
are not paid in full by the appointed time. Banks are around the world, but Indian consumers have so-
lenient in allowing later payment as the accumulated mething special to complain about: interest rates
interest swells up by leaps and bounds. Though average more than 30 per cent, and can soar to more
banks are allowed to charge an interest of 2.5 per than 50 per cent, while charges tacked on for late
cent, it has been found that currently banks charge payments are sometimes a whopping 20 per cent of
the credit card holder interest far in excess, to the the overall balance.
extent of 50 per cent, on defaulted payments. Some All credit card issuers should be transparent in
of the banks were found to attend at a later date to informing every cardholder whether the interest le-
cheques deposited in time so that they were treated vied is compound or simple interest and also wheth-
as default payments coming under the mischief of er the collection of interest is quarterly, half yearly or
heavy interest charges. annual. All this information should be given to cli-
There have been innumerable complaints of ents when they apply for credit cards. Any change in
fraudulent means adopted in collecting heavy in- the procedure should be implemented only after
terest amounts from cardholders. In a case in July intimation in advance to and due acceptance by the
2008, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal respective cardholders.

F R O N T L I N E 1 0 1
APRIL 10, 2009

Banks should adopt fair means in any, in the terms. Some business cen- (SBI), there is no surcharge in Indian
the matter of recovery of dues. Some- tres readily inform the customer that Oil Corporation-run oil stations. It is
times the agents sent by banks are re- they may charge 2 per cent on the price strange that the bank issuing Cancard,
ported to have behaved in a brutal of goods sold on his/her credit card as also a public sector bank, has not made
fashion, hurting and humiliating cli- the issuer of that card has no tie-up any effort to arrange a tie-up with one
ents physically and verbally. Agents with them. So also some banks which, or other of the public sector oil compa-
should be provided with proper certif- at the time of issuing the credit card, nies, whereas private sector banks
icates from banks, and the name and inform clients about the particulars of such as ICICI Bank and HSBC have
address of the designated ofcer who is oil companies or airlines where they been able to arrange tie-ups with pub-
responsible for whatever is done on have or do not have tie-ups. lic sector banks. These two private
behalf of the bank concerned. When I went to some oil stations banks have become leaders in attract-
Moreover, there are innumerable and showed my Cancard, the employee ing a large number of cardholders,
unsolicited phone calls for marketing there said he would issue the bill for more than any of the pubic sector
the cards haunting citizens with or the exact amount marked on the banks.
without credit cards at all times of the board.
day. Banks should be directed not to LANGUAGE POLICY
intrude upon the time and peace of
people through such irksome methods Charging of The RBI guidelines direct: While is-
suing cards, the terms and conditions
of canvassing.
interest in for issue and usage of a credit card
should be mentioned in clear and sim-
It is true that the RBI has issued sever- excess of 30 per ple language (preferably in English,
Hindi and local language) comprehen-
al directives/circulars to banks for im-
plementing regulatory measures to cent a year is sible to a card user.
This directive has not been com-
encourage the growth of credit cards in
a safe, secure and efcient manner and unfair trade plied with by the Cancard division of
the bank concerned, for which the ex-
to ensure that the rules, regulations,
standards and practices of the card- practice, says planation offered by the bank is: The
terms and conditions for issue and use
issuing banks are in alignment with
the best customer practices. the NCDRC. of credit cards are being conveyed in
bilingual, i.e. English and Hindi, as
As a Cancard Visa card holder, I required under [the] ofcial language
nd that the bank concerned with my policy of our bank.
credit card has made no efforts to com- Later, I found that the bank con- While the RBI wants to spread the
ply with some of the important RBI cerned with the card charged sur- banking habit to rural areas, where
guidelines. It seems to be the case with charge and the service tax on the more than 50 per cent of the people
most of the credit card issuers in India. surcharge. The explanation given by live, use of the local language is essen-
For instance, the terms and condi- the bank was that it did not have tie- tial to enlighten people on the benets
tions given by the bank to the card- ups with oil companies as per policy of banking and to enlist more users.
holders is in very small letters, less matter. One is aware of the constitutional
then font size 5, which cannot be read In this regard, the RBI has issued position of the ofcial language of the
easily without using a magnifying lens, the guidelines: The bank/NBFC Union to be Hindi and of English to be
whereas the Appendix of the RBI gui- should not levy any charge that was not continued in all respects for the ad-
delines directs: The font size of the explicitly indicated to the credit-card- ministration of the Union even after
Most Important Terms and Condi- holder at the time of issue of the card the period of 15 years from the com-
tions (MITCs) should be minimum and getting his/her consent. However, mencement of the Constitution. Fur-
Ariel - 12. this would not be applicable to charges ther, the Constitution provides that
The RBI guidelines state: MITCs like service taxes, etc., which may sub- regarding the ofcial languages of a
termed as standard set of conditions, sequently be levied by the government State, the legislature of a State may by
as given in Appendix, should be high- or any other statutory authority. law adopt one or more languages in the
lighted and advertised/sent separately Banks do not explicitly indicate to the State as languages to be used for all or
to the prospective customer/customer cardholder at the time of issue of the any of the purposes of the State.
at all stages. card or at any other time about appli- It is well known that the Tamil
So far no advertisement has come cation of surcharges or service taxes on Nadu Assembly adopted, in January
in the media nor has any communica- such surcharges. 1968, Tamil and English as the ofcial
tion been sent to cardholders high- It is understood that for credit languages of the State. Language is a
lighting the terms and the changes, if cards issued by the State Bank of India sensitive issue and there is no need

1 0 2 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

now to raise any controversy over it. I was in Parliament and gave full should follow the objective of banking
The RBI guidelines are clear that support to the nationalisation of banks for the masses.
the terms and conditions for issue and on the basis of the objectives enunciat- Either the RBI or the Government
usage should be mentioned in clear ed in the Bill. The main objective of the of India should take immediate steps
and simple language (preferably in nationalisation was to transform to correct the unwarranted and dange-
English, Hindi and local language) banking for the classes to banking for rously unwise decision taken by a bank
comprehensible to a card user. the masses. If the bank, one of the or banks in regard to deance of cer-
It is a mandatory directive, which nationalised banks of 1970, decides to tain directives of the RBI, especially in
should be implemented by banks while stick to its language policy, it will de- regard to the adoption of an English-
issuing credit cards. If a bank in this feat the very purpose of banking for the and-Hindi-only policy in their bank-
instance, the bank issuing Cancard masses and will serve only the classes ing activities. Otherwise, there may be
found it difcult to implement this di- of people knowing English or Hindi. a need to get a clear judicial decision
rective on the use of local language The directives of the RBI cannot be on this or to seek other means to offset
comprehensible to the customers it ignored by any bank in India. The Re- the impending danger. It should not
should have appealed to the RBI to serve Bank Act, 1934, and the Banking be allowed to disturb the unity and
discard the directive or to get an ex- Regulation Act, 1949, have given the harmony now prevailing in the multi-
emption for itself. RBI vast powers of supervision and lingual federal set-up of India.
Leave alone the RBI directive and control over commercial banks.
the ofcial language policy of the bank During the debate in the Lok Sab- UNFAIR PRACTICES
in question. How is it possible for a ha on July 29, 1969, on the Bill on In 1920, shoppers in the U.S. intro-
banking institution having branches nationalisation of banks, a member duced a plate buy now, pay later
and customers throughout India to raised a question whether nationalised which could be used only in shops that
conne its work only in English and banks would be outside the purview of issued it. In 1950, Diners Club and
Hindi even in non-Hindi States, where the RBI. Prime Minister Indira Gand- American Express issued the rst
public relations have to be maintained hi, who also held the Finance portfolio, plastic money cards. With magnetic
and banking habits enlarged among informed the House: This is not at all strip in 1970, the credit card became
the people who may not be well- versed true, because they remain scheduled part of the information and technology
in English or Hindi? banks and the Reserve Banks powers system.
The Imperial Bank of India was with regard to them also remain. This Though there is enormous growth
taken over by the Government of India will not reduce the Reserve Bank to in the use of various types of credit
and renamed as State Bank of India insignicance. In fact, it can become cards for each kind of business and
under the State Bank of India Act, more signicant and purposeful and shopping at the average of four cards
1955. This was followed by the forma- the Reserve Banks organisation may per user, there is growing dissatisfac-
tion of seven banks as subsidiaries of have to be strengthened and given new tion among cardholders on the painful
SBI under the State Bank of India denite directions. stranglehold of the card issuers. In
(Subsidiary Banks) Act, 1959. Four- The nationalisation of Indian April 2008, Chris Dodd, chairman of
teen major commercial banks were na- banks in 1970 and in 1980 has imposed the Senate Banking Committee, intro-
tionalised in 1970 and six more in 1980 new responsibilities on the RBI to di- duced new legislation, the Credit Card
by Acts of Parliament. rect the growth of banking and credit Accountability, Responsibility and
The statement of objectives and policies towards more rapid develop- Disclosure Act, to end the abusive and
reasons appended to the Banking ment of the economy and the real- costly credit card practices in the U.S.
Companies (Acquisition and Transfer isation of certain desired social The legislation has been welcomed by
of Undertaking) Bill, 1969, stated: objectives. The RBI and the Centre the coalition of consumer, labour and
The banking system touches the lives should take notice of the deance of civil rights groups: [A]s the U.S.
of millions and has to be inspired by RBI directives by certain banks. economy tightens, nancially vulner-
the large social purpose and has to It is not known whether all banks able families need the protection of the
subserve national priorities and objec- other than the Cancard Visa card-issu- Credit Card Act.
tives, such as rapid growth in agricul- ing bank, and the NBFCs, have their India also needs a strong legisla-
ture, small industries and exports, own ofcial language policy of En- tive measure to eliminate unjustied
raising of employment levels, encour- glish-Hindi only, in violation of the interest hikes and unfair contract
agement of new entrepreneurs and the RBI directives. Public sector banks run clauses and to provide for severe pen-
development of the backward areas. on public money should have some alty on the card issuers in levying abu-
For this purpose, it is necessary for the consideration on the development of sive and hidden charges. Credit cards
government to take direct responsibil- banking business and allow its benets add, at the present, more discredit to
ity for the extension part of banking to reach the vast disadvantaged sec- the entire management of the banking
system. tions of the people. Nationalised banks structure in India.

F R O N T L I N E 1 0 3
Column APRIL 10, 2009

Democracy in action
Not many people give a thought to the enormous effort that goes into the Indian
election exercise, the worlds greatest democratic event.

OT so long ago I voted in sprawled on a chair outside there are

N the State elections in

Delhi. I was doing so af-
ter a very long time, and
for the rst time in the
city-state of Delhi. I went to the polling
booth with my mint-fresh election
card and was pleasantly surprised at
a sizable number of armed security-
men. It is sad that our basic democratic
process should need this dimension,
but the times demand it. Consider the
difference today in trying to enter a
ve-star hotel. This security presence
has made it virtually impossible for a
the smoothness with which the proc- booth to be captured, and in the un-
ess was completed. Someone looked at likely event of that happening, a re-
my card, called out my name, another poll is held in that booth, with tighter
person ticked off my name in a list and security.
I was asked to vote, using the electron- Not many people give a thought to
ic voting machine. I did so and walked the enormous effort that goes into the
out. It took all of two or three minutes. holding of this gigantic event. It is not
True, there were only a few voters
at the time, but even if there had been a
Point of View just about the Election Commission,
though that is where the major deci-
large crowd as there was in the poll- sions and policies are made. Nor is it
ing booth adjacent to the one I was
BHASKAR GHOSE only about the ofces of the chief elec-
asked to go to the process was toral ofcers of each State, where, no
smooth enough to keep the line mov- boxes with votes for their candidates, doubt, crucially important work is
ing. And there was no tension or impa- and rigging, which is much the same done and innumerable problems to do
tience or anything other than a thing, except that the means employed with polling personnel, their move-
relatively calm atmosphere. are a little more devious. Back then, it ment, damaged voting machines and
Some decades ago I had voted in an was possible to remove the ink used to complaints about electoral lists and so
entirely different place. While the mark ones nger even though it was on have to be resolved. But down in the
process there, too, was relatively supposed to be indelible. The trick was ofces of the Returning Ofcers Dis-
smooth, there was some confusion to put cold cream or something similar trict Magistrates and Subdivisional
among some voters faced with a yard- on the nger and the indelible ink ap- Ofcers there are thousands of issues
long voting paper; many found the plied on it could be easily removed that have to be dealt with.
large number of symbols bewildering, using some special chemical that was Getting persons to do polling duty
and then had trouble folding the paper readily available. is a major headache for Returning Of-
in the prescribed manner. (It had to be But, as ways of getting round the cers. They have the power to require
folded lengthwise, as many of us would voting procedure became more so- any citizen to do polling duty, but the
recall, so that the ink from the rubber phisticated, so did the voting system people they use as a matter of course
stamp on a symbol did not get on to itself; voter identication cards and staff from their ofces and other dis-
another symbol but on the empty voting machines make the mere re- trict-level ofces, primary school
space opposite the candidates symbol moval of the ink a less effective way of teachers and others are either falling
and name.) dodging the system. It is still possible sick, or are needed for emergency work
Security in those days meant one to remove the ink, but then one needs of some kind. If the Returning Ofcers
constable or home guard with a lathi, the card, which has a unique hologram do manage to get the required number,
who sat stolidly in one corner. Those and cannot be duplicated. it is, frankly, a little short of being a
were the days of booth-capturing, The real change has been, of miracle. Then there are the other is-
when goons from one party burst into course, the security system. Booths no sues their transport, places to stay
the polling booth and stuffed the ballot longer have a somnolent home guard overnight if the polling station is in a

1 0 4 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

by polling ofcials even remotely seems to help one particular candidate over another, it results in a
barrage of angry letters and demonstrations. Here, polling ofcials in Dakshina Kannada district in Karnataka check
voting machines before taking them to the booths, during the May 2008 Assembly elections.
remote location and their security getting there and back. But the loca- forgotten; the men and women who
units that need to be worked out. tional advantage is offset by the fact contributed to make possible the rene-
To make matters worse, all the that everything, literally everything, wal of our democratic polity then re-
work has to be done under the suspi- that happens in the counting centres, turn to their ofces and regular work.
cious and intent scrutiny of agents of is under the scrutiny of representatives Nor, indeed, should it be other-
candidates. Any suspected action that of candidates. This becomes a nerve- wise. The work they do is part of a
even remotely seems to help one can- wracking exercise in a close contest. process that permeates all aspects of
didate over another results in a bar- True, elections are held elsewhere our lives, and it is right that they do it
rage of angry letters, demonstrations in the world and hardly anyone talks and then go back to doing their regular
and other forms of protest. about the administrative effort they work. However, once the whole proc-
Adding to all this are problems of take. But nowhere are they conducted ess is over, perhaps one could pause for
terrain and climate. Polling stations on such a gigantic scale, on the ap- a moment and spare a thought for
have to be established in the remote pointed days (with a few unfortunate those thousands of civil servants who
fastnesses of Ladakh and Arunachal exceptions), and results declared on make the elections possible; not only
Pradesh, in the arid desert regions of the appointed day. the Election Commission and the chief
Rajasthan and in the Naxalite-affected And then, the democratic gover- electoral ofcers, though they deserve
regions of Jharkhand and Andhra Pra- nance of the country goes on, in such the countrys thanks in no small mea-
desh. Once the voting is over, the fashion as is possible, or made pos- sure, but those who trudge to distant
sealed machines have to be brought sible, by the elected members of the parts of the country, ensure that citi-
back so that the counting can be done Lok Sabha or State Assemblies and zens can vote, and then painstakingly
on the appointed day. their party leaders. The process that count the millions of votes cast. In
Counting sounds relatively simple brought them to where they can talk their own way each one of them helps
compared with the establishment of power and Ministry formation, or keep the democratic fabric of the coun-
the polling stations and the logistics of group and regroup, is almost instantly try whole, and in good order.

F R O N T L I N E 1 0 5
Crime APRIL 10, 2009

Culture police
Bangalore witnesses a spate of attacks on women by right-wing groups.

They targeted English-speaking established between the attacks in Bangalore and

Mangalore. In both cases, the assailants targeted a
women dressed in Western clothes, particular class of women urban, English-speaking
women dressed in Western clothes in their efforts
apparently in an effort to mark to mark patriarchal boundaries for Indian women in
public spaces. The attacks have caused a great deal of
boundaries for women in public anguish and insecurity among women and also the
general public in Bangalore, who seem concerned
spaces. But the protests have been about the state apparatus indifference to these
stronger than those in Mangalore This indifference was evident in its lack of action
against Pramod Muttalik, the SRS president, who
against right-wing atrocities. volubly justied his organisations role in the pub
attack. The Dakshina Kannada district administra-
SINCE mid-February, a section of women in tion has woken up only now, almost two months
Bangalore, the southern Indian city with a progres- after the incident at the Amnesia pub. An order
sive and cosmopolitan culture, have had to grapple banning Muttaliks entry into the district for a year
with a new form of harassment a spate of attacks on was passed on March 16 by the Deputy Commission-
them marked by aggressive ferocity and violence as er and District Magistrate of Dakshina Kannada, V.
opposed to general incidents of Ponnuraj. Speaking to Frontline
sexual harassment or eve-teas- from Mangalore, Ponnuraj said:
ing on the streets. He [Muttalik] has been sup-
From rst-person accounts porting incidents such as the pub
available on a blog that collated attack and justifying it under the
responses, seven attacks took name of moral policing. If he is
place between February 17 and allowed to come into the district,
28. Three of these took place on there is a possibility that he will
February 17, followed by one on instigate violence.
February 24 and two on Febru-
ary 27. And just as these six CUSTODIANS OF CULTURE
attacks were beginning to at- Claiming responsibility for the
tract media attention, the sev- attacks on women at the Amnesia
enth, a random attack, took pub, Muttalik had said, We are
place on a female journalist the custodians of Indian culture.
working for Tehelka on Febru- Even in some of the attacks on

ary 28. In March too, reports of women in Bangalore, there was

attacks have come in. an evident intent to dene the
The attacks have come a boundaries of culture by target-
month after the one on women ing women dressed in Western
at the Amnesia pub in Manga- clothes and speaking English.
lore on January 24 by activists Some of these incidents took
of the Sri Rama Sene (SRS) S RI RA M A S E N E chief Pramod place in broad daylight, and bys-
(Taliban in saffron, Fron- Muttalik at a meeting held to tanders did not help the victims.
tline, February 27, 2009). condemn Valentines Day In one incident, Geethanjali
Hence, a tenuous link can be celebrations, in Bangalore. (name changed) was driving her

1 0 6 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

SR S A C TI V I S T S I N Hubli with the packets they received from the pink chaddi campaign team on Valentines Day.

car through Indiranagar when two I was wearing underneath my shrug. even been considered offensive by
men on a motorcycle followed and When the shrug didnt come off with some, it was effective in rallying wom-
taunted her. They spat on her car win- their efforts, the violence of their tug- en who have not been associated with
dow. As she drove away, the men ging increased. In self-defence, I hit any form of public activism in the past.
chased her again and threatened to kill out at an offending hand that was try- By mid-March, the group on Facebook
her. ing to disrobe me. The response, one of had more than 57,000 members.
In another case, Lakshmi (name the men slapped me hard across my As the pink chaddi campaign
changed) was accosted by four men in ear. Then they began trying to lift my gathered momentum and attracted in-
Vasanthnagar; they punched and top up while making references to creasing media attention in the rst
abused her for wearing jeans. pink chaddi [panties]. two weeks of February, Muttalik was
In a third case, Jasmine (name forced to respond to it. As a co-ordina-
changed) was on her way to work on PINK CHADDI CAMPAIGN tor of the campaign said, this is the
the morning of February 24 when the The pink chaddi campaign was a suc- only way to engage people like Mutta-
autorickshaw in which she was trav- cessful protest against the SRS action lik in a dialogue.
elling broke down. While she was try- in Mangalore. Thousands of women In Jasmines case, the fact that the
ing to hail another auto, a vehicle across the country, who were repelled attackers accused her of being part of
slowed down and the four men inside by the SRS action, organised them- the pink chaddi campaign demon-
said something to her. The situation selves on the online social networking strates the effect the campaign has had
soon turned grim. The men got out of site Facebook under the tongue-in- on certain patriarchal elements in
their car and started abusing her. cheek name A Consortium of Pub-Go- Bangalore.
The incident went like this, as she ing, Loose and Forward Women. They
wrote in the blog: They started touch- then responded to Muttaliks hate FEARLESS KARNATAKA
ing me and pulling at my clothes. One rhetoric by sending thousands of pink Some of the activists involved in the
of them tugged so brutally at the shrug panties to the SRS headquarters on pink chaddi campaign mobilised
I was wearing that he scratched my February 14, Valentines Day. themselves immediately after reports
neck. Their goal was to show the col- While there has been criticism of of the attacks came in. Organising
lected crowd that had gathered the top the pink chaddi campaign and it has themselves as a group called Fearless

F R O N T L I N E 1 0 7
APRIL 10, 2009

Karnataka/Nirbhaya Karnataka ment with their ideas of social apar- was a Christian. Local Bharatiya Jana-
(FKNK), they submitted a memoran- theid, a phrase that a report uses to ta Party activists along with activists
dum to Shankar Bidari, Commissioner describe the societal conditions in from other right-wing organisations
of Police, Bangalore, and held a protest Dakshina Kannada. The report, based led the opposition; the issue has found
against the attacks outside his ofce on on the ndings of an independent fact- support with the local BJP legislator,
March 1. Bidari responded that the nding team, consisting of Shakun K. Lakshminarayana.
three rst information reports (FIRs) Mohini of Vimochana, B.N. Usha of The report states: A survey of the
lodged (only three of the women com- Hengasara Hakkina Sangha (Wom- English press from 02.09.08 to
plained to the police about the attacks ens Rights Group), Arvind Narrain of 25.02.09 shows that there were 22 in-
on them) could not be categorised as a the Alternative Law Forum (ALF) and cidents of moral policing reported
persistent problem. He added that Ramdas Rao of the Peoples Union for from the district. A survey of the local
Bangalore was a cultured city. State Civil Liberties (PUCL), which visited Kannada press from 01.08.08 to
Home Minister V.S. Acharya asked the Mangalore in February, describes so- 15.02.09 reveals that there were 45 in-
media why the issue was being brought cial apartheid as a practice of segre- cidents in which self-styled vigilante
to his notice. gating communities on the basis of groups took the law into their own
Members of the FKNK organised religion and gender by self-styled vigi- hands.
events in the city before and on In- lante groups as well as prescribing ap- This includes the suicide of a 15-
ternational Womens Day, on March 8, propriate behaviour and conduct for year-old schoolgirl on February 11 af-
to demonstrate their dissatisfaction separate communities. ter she was publicly humiliated by a
with the response of the State adminis- suspected Hindutva group for being
tration and the police. In many parts of
the city, they conducted street plays There is an friendly with a Muslim, and the beat-
ing up of the daughter of a Communist
and distributed testimonials of the vic-
tims of the attacks. An event called effort by the Party of India (Marxist) MLA from
Kerala for fraternising with a Muslim.
Take Back the Night was held to as-
sert symbolically womens right to Hindutva The other incidents have also mainly
involved inter-communal socialising
public space in the city at night.
The woman journalist with Tehel- vigilante groups between young people. Narrain, one of
the members of the fact-nding com-
ka who was attacked said that it could
not be denied that a certain class of to consistently mission, told Frontline: There is an
effort by the Hindutva vigilante groups
women had the resources to network
and articulate their grievances. This target young to consistently target young people.
The incidents in Mangalore have
does not in any way mean that this
class of women speak only for them- people. happened over a period of several
years. The civil society in Dakshina
selves. Violence against women in Kannada has failed to stand up to the
public spaces is a problem suffered by According to the report titled Cul- gradual, but consistent, propaganda
all women across classes and these re- tural Policing in Dakshina Kannada: and intimidation by the right-wing
sponses should be considered as a re- Vigilante Attacks on Women and Mi- forces.
sponse of all women, she said. norities, 2008-09, culture policing Inter-communal socialising by
But many people in the city felt has been going on in Dakshina Kanna- young people is coming to a gradual
that the FKNKs response to the at- da both before and after the Manga- halt, and women are afraid to be seen
tacks was an overreaction as these lore pub incident. Unlike Bangalore, in pubs. In some measure, the patri-
incidents had always happened. the district has not seen any signicant archal and communal elements have
opposition to the activities of right- managed to communicate effectively
SOCIAL APARTHEID wing groups. their warped agenda to the general
What worries many activists in Banga- In early March, two incidents of public.
lore is that right-wing groups that have culture policing took place in the re- The events in Mangalore and Ban-
been active in Dakshina Kannada dis- gion. Muslim girls were banned from galore show that there is a deliberate
trict and coastal Karnataka so far wearing the burqa in the Government effort to delineate the space in which
might be exploring other places in the Composite Pre-University College in women can operate and at the same
State, including Bangalore, to experi- Panja village in Dakshina Kannada; time establish a culture of violence.
secondly, the erection of a statue of The robust response in Bangalore to
ONLINE Hollywood actor Charlie Chaplin by the attacks prove that the city would
lm-maker Hemant Hegde on March have less patience than Mangalore
thepinkchaddicampaign.blogspot.com/ 15 was opposed in Baindur in Udupi with efforts to introduce social apar-
district on the grounds that Chaplin theid.

1 0 8 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

Campus cruelty
Ragging continues to defy solution as educational institutions turn a blind eye to
the need for compliance with the Supreme Courts guidelines. B Y V . V E N K A T E S A N

A study revealed 14 cases of suicide It is not as if the governments are unconcerned

about the need to stem the menace. A report on the
between 1998 and 2007. In this measures to stem ragging, by a committee set up at
the instance of the University Grants Commission
decade alone, 198 incidents of (UGC) in 1999, referred to the Government of Indias
notication banning ragging in the aftermath of the
ragging have been recorded across death of two freshers in a Regional Engineering
College in the late 1970s.
the country. Since then, various State governments have been
experimenting unsuccessfully with
TWO incidents of ragging in ordinances, laws and circulars to
higher educational institutions, one deal with the menace. Six States
in the North and another in the Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pra-
South, have exposed the nations in- desh, Maharashtra, West Bengal
ability to stem the menace, which and Chhattisgarh have enacted
has deed solution. statutes against ragging.
The death of 19-year-old Aman The UGC set up a four-member
Kachroo at the hands of senior stu- committee, chaired by K.P.S. Unny
dents in the Rajendra Prasad Med- of the Jawaharlal Nehru University,
ical College in Tanda, Himachal in 1999, in response to a public in-
Pradesh, on March 8 raised disturb- terest petition led in the Supreme
ing questions about the culpability Court by the Vishwa Jagriti Mission.

of the college authorities and the The committees recommendations

regulatory bodies, who are entrust- were exhaustive. On the basis of
ed with the responsibility of ensur- these, the Supreme Court issued a
ing compliance of the college with set of directions in 2001. The court
the anti-ragging guidelines. Amans P A REN TS AN D FR I E N D S said that the police, while dealing
killers have been swiftly arrested of Aman Kachroo, who died with ragging cases, should not treat
and will be prosecuted, but the cul- after being ragged by his students as criminals but should on-
pable negligence of these authorities seniors, at a protest against ly resort to corrective action.
is yet to be established. ragging in New Delhi on In 2006, the court, concerned
Another victim, a girl, from the March 14. with the non-effectiveness of its di-
Government Engineering College at rections while hearing the case Uni-
Baptala in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, consumed a versity of Kerala vs Council of Principals of Colleges,
pesticide after senior girl students in her hostel felt the need for another committee to examine the
forced her to dance naked in front of them. measures afresh. A committee, headed by R.K.
Although these incidents are shocking, it is their Raghavan, former Director of the Central Bureau of
recurrence that should outrage any civilised society. Investigation, was thus set up.
A study by the Coalition to Uproot Ragging from The Raghavan committee analysed 198 incidents
Education (CURE) revealed 14 cases of suicide by of ragging between 1998 and 2007, from the compi-
victims of ragging and 12 reported cases of serious lation forwarded by CURE. Tamil Nadu and Andhra
physical and mental torture by way of ragging be- Pradesh were among the rst States to enact dedicat-
tween 1998 and 2007. In this decade alone, 198 ed legislation, way back in 1997, prohibiting ragging.
incidents of ragging have been recorded across the Ironically, Andhra Pradesh recorded the highest
country. number of incidents (23) during the period. The

F R O N T L I N E 1 0 9
APRIL 10, 2009

Implementation is half-hearted
Interview with R.K. Raghavan, Chairperson, Monitoring Committee for the Prevention
of Ragging. B Y V . V E N K A T E S A N
IN 2006, the Supreme Court consti- accepted and acted upon? Cases like Kachroos are a wake-up
tuted a committee led by R.K. Ragh- You will have to ask the regulato- call to them.
avan, former Director of the Central ry bodies as also the HRD [Human
Can a piece of all-India legislation to
Bureau of Investigation, to suggest Resource Development] Ministry to
prevent and punish ragging help?
measures to curb ragging. Submit- arrive at an estimate. Implementa-
ting its report on May 7, 2007, the It is difcult to predict. But all-
tion has been half-hearted, smack-
committee said that it might not India legislation will be taken more
ing of tokenism.
have fully understood all aspects of seriously by all concerned.
the menace but its 50 recommenda- The Supreme Court order carried
Can a help-line be an effective
tions could have a reasonable poten- nine specic guidelines. Do they
tial to change the situation. The reect your recommendations? Do
they have the force of law? Will it be Yes, certainly. It will depend on
report, on the basis of which the Su- who runs it and what resources back
preme Court distilled on May 16, an effective deterrent?
the organisation that operates it. An
2007, nine specic guidelines to be Yes, the Supreme Court direc-
NGO with a good track record can be
followed, has not been taken serious- tives are mostly based on my com-
persuaded to run it at least in impor-
ly by any of the stakeholders. In this mittees recommendations. The fact
tant towns. The police will again
email interview to Frontline, Ragha- that they are guidelines indicate
have to cooperate with such a
van reects on the reasons for this that they do not have the same sanc-
indifference. tity as legislation passed by Parlia-
ment or the State Assemblies. But, What are the prime reasons for the
In your report, you underlined the when guidelines are issued by the recent incidents?
absence of a statutory provision, apex court, they assume the colour of Apathy and negligence on the
followed by appropriate delegated law and their violation does attract part of the college managements and
legislation, to prevent ragging as contempt. an utter lack of fear or respect for law
being responsible for the Guidelines are not a panacea. on the part of the students, who copy
continuance of the problem. But they can bring about a vast our politicians, the majority of
I stand by this position. Stiff and change for the better. whom have shown a disdain for the
well-conceived legislation may not rule of law.
put an end to ragging but will take us How relevant is the ling of first
towards it. information reports by the victims
How do you think the problem of
and institutions? What if the victims
You also blamed the absence of civil collecting evidence in prosecuting
prefer to seek extra-legal remedies
society initiatives. What can be done offences of ragging can be
in view of threats from
to create such initiatives? addressed?
Incidents such as that of [Aman] Through appointing full-time
For this not to happen, we need a
Kachroo should receive greater at- mentors on campuses and wardens
more sensitive police. This can come
tention from the media, especially in hostels and making them accoun-
about only through training and
those in our languages and not mere- table to whatever happens by way of
media pressure.
ly in English. Parent-teacher asso- harassment of students.
ciations should bring in initiatives Are parents guilty of ignoring They will be drawn from the fac-
aimed at educating student and victims complaints? How ulty and the burden to establish how
teacher communities to evince grea- widespread was the parents an incident of ragging happened will
ter interest in preventing rather than indifference among the cases you be on them. Such an arrangement
reacting to tragedies. studied? will aid the preliminary investiga-
I do not agree that parents ignore tion and thereafter make reliable
You made 50 recommendations. their wards complaints. At best, they evidence available for the authorities
How many of these have been underestimate the danger to them. to act.

1 1 0 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

committee explained that this might

be because of greater awareness
brought about by the law and conse-
quently even isolated instances being
highlighted by the media or reported
by the victims. Another reason could
be the growth of professional colleges,
where incidence of ragging is known to
be high.
The committee noted that while
Uttar Pradesh did not have a State law
against ragging, it had reported almost
as many incidents as Andhra Pradesh.
West Bengal, despite having a State
law (enacted in 2000) against ragging,
reported the third largest number of
incidents (16).
The major contribution of the
committee was to highlight the dimen-
sions of ragging. These are: 1) Exploit-
ing the services of a junior student for
completing the academic tasks as-
signed to an individual or a group of
seniors; 2) Financial extortion or put-
ting expenditure burden forcefully on
a junior student by seniors; 3) Physical across any instance of collective puni- strued as culpable negligence. The
abuse including all its variants: sexual shment being imposed. court also held that the authorities and
abuse, homosexual assaults, stripping, To address the root cause of rag- functionaries of the concerned institu-
forcing obscene and lewd acts and ges- ging, the committee recommended a tion should also be open to scrutiny so
tures, causing bodily harm or any oth- variety of measures right from the that one could nd out whether they
er danger to the health of the victim; school level. One is introduction of hu- had taken effective steps to prevent
and 4) Any act or abuse by spoken man rights education, of which aware- ragging. In case of any failure on their
word, emails, snail-mails, and public ness against ragging is a compulsory part, action can be taken; for instance,
insults so as to derive perverted plea- part. The committee felt that bullying denial of any grant-in-aid or assistance
sure, or vicarious or sadistic thrill from and corporal punishment at the school from the State government.
actively or passively participating in level legitimised ideas of power abuse, The Rajendra Prasad Medical Col-
the discomture of others. harassment, and violation of dignity lege, for instance, gets Rs.120 crore as
The committee noted that it had and privacy, and prepared the ground annual grant from the Centre. And the
not come across any instance of educa- for ragging at the college level. Corpo- State government and the college
tional institutions approaching the po- ral punishment has been banned in management are keen to raise the col-
lice to report even extreme incidents of Goa, Delhi and Tamil Nadu. leges standards to the level of the All
ragging. This attitude was of concern The committee urged that every in- India Institute of Medical Sciences.
to the committee, which sought to cident of ragging be treated with the The Supreme Court Bench com-
make the institutional authorities ac- heaviest hand possible, however iso- prising Justices Arijit Pasayat and
countable in a number of ways. The lated or mild or positive it might Asok Kumar Ganguly took note on
committee also reported that it had appear. The punishment, it suggested, March 16 of the recent incidents of
not come across a single instance of had to be justiably harsh to act as a ragging and remarked that the author-
any action being taken against an in- deterrent. ities in both Himachal Pradesh and
stitution or their authorities con- In its order on May 16, 2007, the Andhra Pradesh had prima facie com-
cerned. Supreme Court endorsed many of the mitted contempt of the court by not
In the Jagriti matter, the Supreme major recommendations of the Ragha- complying with the guidelines. The
Court held that collective nes could van Committee. In particular, the court issued notices to the State go-
be imposed where those committing court held that any failure on the part vernments, besides the educational in-
or abetting ragging could not be iden- of institutional authority, or negli- stitutions concerned, to show cause
tied. The committee did not, barring gence, or deliberate delay in lodging a why contempt proceedings should not
one or two isolated instances, come first information report should be con- be initiated against them.

F R O N T L I N E 1 1 1
Public Health APRIL 10, 2009

Depressing scene
Mental disorders threaten to become a serious problem in India and the
treatment facilities remain woefully inadequate. B Y P U R N I M A S . T R I P A T H I I N N E W D E L H I

The Union government hopes to ments so that, even if they are not qualied enough to
prescribe treatment, they can detect early signs and
change things with a re-strategised refer patients to psychiatrists. The problem with
mental health is also one of awareness. Very often
National Mental Health people do not realise that their weird behaviour
could be the result of some mental disorder, and by
Programme, which will be the time they do it is too late. So, what we need is a
system wherein the ailment can be detected at an
integrated with the general health early stage and treated properly, she said over phone
from her constituency in Andhra Pradesh.
care programme. Another problem with the mental health care
system, she said, was the social stigma attached to
MENTAL ailments will overtake cardiovascular the disease, which prevented many people from dis-
diseases to become the single largest health problem closing their problem. This we plan to tackle
in the country by 2010, says a study done by the through aggressive awareness campaigns on radio
National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sci- and television. Our advertisements are already on
ences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, at the behest of the air. Besides, we need to sensitise the community at
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). It large because unlike several other diseases, mental
notes that close to 7 per cent of the countrys pop- health cannot have hospital-centric treatment alone.
ulation suffer from varying degrees of mental dis- The family, the neighbourhood and society at large
order. And over 3 per cent of them need active has to be involved, she said.
treatment. Translated into numbers, this means that The Ministry has already nalised an ambitious
a staggering 30 to 35 lakh people in India are in plan of action to augment manpower and it has been
urgent need of treatment, including hospitalisation, approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic
for mental ailments, but there are only 29,000 hos- Affairs. This plan seeks to establish at least 11 centres
pital beds and 3,300 psychiatrists available in all to of excellence for mental health and neurosciences. A
treat them. Of these, over 3,000 psychiatrists are number of other institutions will be strengthened in
based in the four metros. terms of manpower. It is hoped that the plan, with an
This woeful shortage of trained mental health outlay of Rs.474 crore for the duration of the Elev-
care professionals in the country made Union Minis- enth Five-Year Plan, will churn out another 100
ter for Health and Family Welfare Dr. Anbumani psychiatrists, 400 clinical psychologists, 400 psychi-
Ramadoss to plead literally with NIMHANS gradu- atric social workers and 800 psychiatric nurses every
ates at their recent convocation ceremony to stay on year. According to Lakshmi, the availability of more
in India and not migrate to Western countries. psychiatrists and other mental health care profes-
However, there is some good news too. The Cen- sionals will go a long way in dealing with the prob-
tral government has nally woken up to this acute lem. The lack of timely access to a psychiatrist is at
problem and is putting up a comprehensive plan of times as high as 50 to 80 per cent.
action on a war footing. Union Minister of State for Another problem is the rehabilitation of cured
Health P. Lakshmi told Frontline that the govern- patients. The stigma attached to the afiction is such
ment planned to re-strategise the National Mental that even after patients are cured, their relatives
Health Programme (NMHP) and integrate it with refuse to take them back. This increases the load on
the general health care programme. The NMHP has an already overburdened system. The Ministry of
been in force since 1987 but has not delivered much. Social Justice has agreed to run houses for the reha-
The government will now launch a nationwide pro- bilitation of cured, abandoned patients, Lakshmi
gramme to train general practitioners in mental ail- said. Professionals in the eld of mental health care

1 1 2 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

said, describing the state of affairs in

the eld of mental health as pathetic.
The mental health care system
would be put on the right track, he
said, by creating a parallel secondary
system of experts that is, by training
general practitioners, paediatricians
and gynaecologists in this area and by
involving private players, who have
success models to show, in the effort.
But he said he was sceptical about the
government initiative because his own
experience showed that the govern-

ments obsession with control and au-
thority had prevented it so far from
involving private professionals. There
was nothing to indicate that this was
AT TH E I N S T I T UT E of Mental Health, Chennai. Close to 7 per cent of the about to change now, he said.
countrys population suffer from varying degrees of mental disorder. The government action in this
eld has been marked by complacence,
have greeted the governments cam- have trained doctors and adequate in- lethargy and red-tapism, which has so
paign with some degree of scepticism patient and outpatient departments far played havoc with the system. We
but have approved it nonetheless. Ac- for such patients. This is a major have had the NMHP for over 20 years
cording to Dr. B.N. Gangadhar, head achievement because access to profes- now, but not even a single study has
of psychiatry at NIMHANS, which is sional health care workers, especially been done to check its impact. The
engaged in formulating a model men- in semi-urban and rural areas, re- sense of urgency with which this prob-
tal health care programme along with mains the biggest problem today, he lem should be treated is also missing,
the NHRC, it is in vogue to talk of said. said Nagpal with great anguish.
mental health being in a shambles now According to him, 10-15 crore peo-
but it has been so for years. MULTIDISCIPLINARY APPROACH ple in India suffer from various mental
The situation has been quite bleak Dr. Jitendra Nagpal, consultant psy- disorders such as stress, insomnia,
for years. In fact it has been so bleak chiatrist at the Delhi-based Vidyasa- psychosomatic diseases and problems
that the Supreme Court was forced to gar Institute of Mental Health and arising out of changing lifestyles fol-
take suo motu action and direct the Neuro Sciences (VIMHANS), could lowing globalisation, urbanisation and
NHRC to ensure that mental patients not agree more. Nagpal, who has been breakdown of old family values. Nearly
were given dignied and humane involved in running community-based 1.5 crore people, he said, were known
treatment, he said. The apex courts mental health care programmes for to be suffering from extreme schizo-
initiative resulted in the NHRC and years now at his own initiative (he pro- phrenia.
NIMHANS coming together in the vides mental health counselling in over It is reported that by 2020 depres-
early 1990s to work on a project called 500 schools in North India and runs sion will become the single largest kill-
Quality Assurance in Mental Health, various charitable mental health care er in the world and India will lead the
he added. centres in the Mathura-Vrindavan- list. Sad to say, no one seems to realise
According to Gangadhar, the pro- Agra region), said availability of men- the urgency of the situation. Unless the
grammes initiated by the United Pro- tal health professionals was a big chal- country has mentally sound people,
gressive Alliance government are a lenge in rural and semi-urban areas. how can we talk of being an econom-
step in the right direction, but there is For hundreds of miles outside ically strong nation? Nagpal said. The
a long way to go. We need to give Delhis periphery, there are no psychi- only way out, he said, was to have a
training to general practitioners at the atrists available and people are forced multidisciplinary approach to the
grassroots level to counsel mentally ill to go to faith healers, magicians and problem, involve society at large and
persons and to refer them to the right quacks to treat their mental disorders, adopt the PPP model, albeit under go-
doctors. The present government has thus compounding the problem. The vernment control and supervision.
initiated a training programme for only way this problem can be ad- Otherwise, he warned, all the talk of
doctors at primary health care centres dressed is by public-private partner- re-strategising the NMHP would re-
and at district hospitals. Over 200 dis- ships [PPP] because it is just not main on paper and, once again, thou-
trict hospitals have already been cov- possible for the government to handle sands of crores of public money would
ered; by 2012, all district hospitals will a problem of this magnitude alone, he get wasted.

F R O N T L I N E 1 1 3
Public Health APRIL 10, 2009

Vaccine asco
The closure of three public sector vaccine-producing units has led to a shortage
of vaccines in the countrywide immunisation programme. B Y R . R A M A C H A N D R A N

[N]either the joint inspection team lic sector units comply with the WHOs cGMP norms
if they are to be certied by the WHO for the export
of WHO-NRA nor the subsequent of vaccines for global immunisation programmes.
The Indian cGMP norms are equivalent to the WHO
team from the DCGIs ofce had norms. These were adopted in 2001 but notied only
in 2005.
made any recommendation The units in question are the 103-year-old Cen-
tral Research Institute, Kasauli in Himachal Pra-
regarding stopping production of desh; the 100-year-old Pasteur Institute of India,
Coonoor in Tamil Nadu; and the 60-year-old BCG
vaccines by these units or closing Vaccine Laboratory, Chennai. These units had been
manufacturing the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG)
down these units. vaccine to prevent childhood tuberculosis, the triple
diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus (DPT) vaccine, the oral
SINCE Frontline published a Cover Story last polio vaccine (OPV) and the measles vaccine. The
year (April 11, 2008) on the closure in January 2008 apprehensions expressed in the Cover Story that this
of the three public sector units that met the bulk of unwarranted move could lead to a shortage of vac-
the requirement of primary vaccines for the coun- cines in the countrywide immunisation programme
trys Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP), have turned out to be true (see tables).
and its potential impact on the supply of affordable Besides these vaccines and others belonging to
essential vaccines for childhood immunisation, sev- the DPT group, such as the diphtheria-tetanus (DT)
eral important developments have taken place. toxoid and tetanus toxoid (TT) vaccines, these units
The Drug Controller General produce non-UIP vaccines such
of India (DCGI) ordered the as the anti-rabies vaccine (ARV)
three units to shut down on the for animals and humans, the ty-
grounds that they were not com- phoid vaccine and, most impor-
plying with current good manu- tantly, the yellow fever vaccine.
facturing practice (cGMP) They also produce sera, includ-
norms under the Indian Drugs ing the anti-snakebite serum.
and Cosmetic Rules (D&CR), The Kasauli institute is, in fact,
1945. However, Union Health the only unit in South-East Asia
Minister Anbumani Ramadoss to produce the yellow fever vac-
had told Frontline that the li- cine.
cences of the units had to be A centralised vaccine park,
withdrawn because of tremen- which will have state-of-the-art
dous pressure from the World infrastructure for the produc-
Health Organisation to derecog- tion of and research on both UIP

nise the DCGI, which is Indias and non-UIP vaccines, includ-

National Regulatory Authority ing new generation vaccines,
(NRA), following the WHO- was proposed to be set up in
NRA assessment of the units in A N B U MA N I R AM A D OS S , UN I ON Chengalpattu near Chennai in
2007. This was the third assess- Health Minister, said that the lieu of these three units. Hin-
ment after the ones carried out licences of the vaccine-producing dustan Latex Ltd. (HLL), a pub-
in 2001 and 2004. The DCGI is units had to be withdrawn because lic sector undertaking of the
supposed to ensure that the pub- of pressure from WHO. Ministry of Health and Family

1 1 4 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

Welfare, was to set up this complex.

On January 11, 2008, the Ministry
handed over 330 acres (1 acre is 0.4
hectare) to the HLL for the proposed
complex, named MediPark.
Though the HLL is a successful
prot-making unit, it has little experi-
ence in vaccine production and tech-
nology. To begin with, the company
started trading in vaccines through the
marketing of the hepatitis B and ty-
phoid vaccines. Interestingly, with its
entry into the vaccine business and
perhaps to present a different image,
the company recently changed its
name to HLL Lifecare Ltd.
The HLL, in turn, envisages Medi-
Park as a public-private-partnership
(PPP) venture with an investment of
Rs.500 crore, with the UIP vaccine
unit alone costing Rs.160 crore. The
HLL has requested the Ministry to
fund this component of the park en-
tirely. The Ministry has apparently
sought direct Cabinet approval for
funding this project, but now this can
be considered only by the new govern-
ment. The private partner is yet to be
identied by the HLL. According to
recent news reports, the estimated cost
of the project is now Rs.900 crore,
implying that the cost of the UIP vac-
cine unit will have correspondingly
shot up.
Towards this new-found enter-
prise, the HLL also signed a mem-
orandum of understanding last
August with NNE Pharmaplan India
Ltd., a Denmark-based multinational
company, for it to be the consultant for
the project. According to A.K. Singal,
the managing director of NNE Phar-
maplan India, as of now, the Ministry
has given the go-ahead to the company
to prepare the basic engineering plan
only. The detailed engineering plan
will be taken up once the full contract
is awarded to it, he said.

Interestingly, the Parliamentary
Standing Committee on Health and
Family Welfare in its 27th Report
(April 2008) recommended that the
suspension of the manufacturing li-
cences of all the three public sector

F R O N T L I N E 1 1 5
APRIL 10, 2009

units be revoked. In its 34th Report

dated February 18, 2009, which has
specically looked at The Function-
ing of the Three Vaccine Producing
PSUs, the Standing Committee,
chaired by Amar Singh, says: In the
absence of any proactive action on the
part of the Ministry [in response to the
recommendation], reports about
shortage of vaccines in the different
States kept pouring in. It therefore
decided to holistically examine this
sensitive issue.
On December 6, 2008, T.K. Ran-
garajan, a Rajya Sabha member from
the Communist Party of India (Mar-
xist), made a representation to Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh on the vac-
cine unit closure issue. He raised 10
questions and sought the Prime Minis-
ters urgent intervention in the matter.
The questions related to the addi-
tional nancial expenditure incurred
on the procurement of vaccines since
the closure of the units, the total esti-
mated additional expenditure until
2012 when the vaccine park is likely to
become operational, a comparison of of India in
this with the cost of upgrading the Coonoor. The [Parliamentary Standing]
units to cGMP norms, the Ministrys Committee fails to understand as to how the
strategy for making the vaccines avail- Ministry would ensure cGMP compliance in
able in the interim, the impact on the the private institutes when it cannot enforce
immunisation programme because of the same in its own institutes.
the closure, and so on. Rangarajan also
met Manmohan Singh, who apparent-
ly gave him a patient hearing. tion at these institutes in compliance and anti-sera at the Pasteur Institute.
The Prime Ministers Ofce, in with cGMP. Though the expert com- The institute will also be developed
turn, asked the Ministry of Health and mittee has submitted its report, iron- into a central testing laboratory for
Family Welfare on December 23 to ically, its terms of reference never medical devices and a training centre
respond to the queries by December included exploring ways to upgrade for the production and testing of anti-
29. But Rangarajan is yet to receive the existing units to make them cGMP sera.
any response from the Prime Minis- compliant for primary vaccines. Recommendations for the Kasauli
ters Ofce or the Ministry. This suggests that the Ministry unit include new manufacturing facil-
However, in reply to a question in never had any intention of upgrading ities for the yellow fever vaccine, the
the Lok Sabha, Anbumani Ramadoss them to meet cGMP norms and that inuenza vaccine (seasonal and pan-
stated on February 18 that an expert the decision to shut them down was demic), the acetone-killed typhoid
committee under the chairmanship of perhaps taken in 2004 itself. If one vaccine and the TCARV; a new anti-
the DCGI had been constituted in goes by the remarks of M. Ayyappan, sera facility; a centre for measles, u
April 2008 to study, inter alia, the the chairman and managing director and rabies surveillance in addition to
existing infrastructure/facilities avail- of the HLL, to a news agency, the rst the existing polio surveillance; expan-
able with these institutes and explore project report was prepared in 2004 sion and modernisation of the existing
the feasibility of converting these facil- itself and the green signal was given in animal house into a national animal
ities into testing laboratories, utilising 2006. According to Anbumani Rama- breeding centre; and the expansion of
the existing facilities for setting up res- doss statement, the expert committee the Central Drugs Laboratory at Ka-
idential training facilities and having recommended the production of tissue sauli to have separate wings for bacte-
some of the vaccines/anti-sera produc- culture anti-rabies vaccine (TCARV) rial and viral vaccines.

1 1 6 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

The report also points out that in

the last evaluation of the units, carried
out in 2007, the three units had been
asked to rectify certain deciencies in
cGMP compliance that were noticed
but the institutes were neither given
sufcient time nor adequate budgetary
support to rectify the deciencies
pointed out by the inspection team.
The Standing Committee has
pointed out that the major shortcom-
ings pointed out by the WHO inspec-
tion team had already been rectied by
the institutions concerned and what
remained were a few drawbacks per-
taining mainly to infrastructure,
which could have been easily removed
with positive support from the Minis-
try. Citing Rule 85 (1) of the Drugs and
Cosmetics Rules, the Standing Com-
mittee stated that the licences of the
three units should have only been sus-
pended for a specic period.
This period, says the report,
could have been utilised for removal
of all the shortcomings in a time-
bound manner under the overall su-
pervision of the Ministry.

Castigating the Ministry for its total
inaction, the Parliamentary Standing

Committee states: [I]t is astonishing

to nd that the building structures of
these old institutions have continued
The recommendations for the suspended till the time discrepancies to remain in their original set-up. Ideal
Chennai unit include its conversion in- notice were nally removed. The Com- position would have been to revamp
to a BCG vaccine-testing laboratory mittee expresses its serious reservation the existing structures so as to ensure
under the Central Drugs Laboratory, on this development. The report fur- normal functioning as well as further
setting up a training centre for BCG ther says that certain critical aspects expansion/strengthening in accord-
production and testing, developing a about the functioning of the three ance with the changing times/require-
central testing laboratory for cosmet- units remain unclear even after an ments. The Committee is not aware
ics, and expanding and modernising analysis of the Ministrys Status Note whether any initiative, whatsoever,
the existing animal house. and the expert committees report, re- was taken by the Ministry or the Direc-
Given the limited and very specic quiring complete examination of the tor-General of Health Services
terms of reference, these recommen- whole issue by the Standing Commit- (DGHS) to draw up an action plan and
dations are not surprising. Indeed, the tee. take follow-up action in a time-bound
Parliamentary Standing Committee The most signicant and the manner. The Committee fails to un-
report states: The scope and TOR damning observation of the Standing derstand as to how the Ministry would
[terms of reference] of the EC [expert Committee is the following: [N]ei- ensure cGMP compliance in the pri-
committee] are self-revealing. ther the joint inspection team of vate institutes when it cannot enforce
[They] indicate that the Ministry had WHO-NRA nor the subsequent team the same in its own institutes.
already taken a decision for nal stop- from the DCGIs ofce had made any But more serious is the charge by
page of vaccine production at the in- recommendation regarding stopping the Standing Committee that the
stitutes despite the fact that the production of vaccines by these units WHO had offered to upgrade the tech-
manufacturing licence remained or closing down these units. nology of these units but the Ministry

F R O N T L I N E 1 1 7
Public Health APRIL 10, 2009

had declined the offer and instead pre- mand-supply gap following vaccine lowed to continue production in the
ferred to cancel their procurement from private suppliers in old structures after carrying out the
vaccine-producing licences. 2008-09 is given in Table 1. rectications either fully or to the ex-
Interestingly, the Standing Com- Signicantly, the Standing Com- tent possible, the report states.
mittee has found that a proposal to mittee said that the cGMP status of Another signicant development
convert the DPT manufacturing lab- these private suppliers was not known in the matter is that on February 21, a
oratory at the Kasauli unit into a and that it would like to be apprised by Supreme Court Bench comprising
cGMP-compliant structure was made the Ministry about it. The committee Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and
way back in 1997-98, and the contract has also commented that once the pri- Justice P. Sathasivam admitted a pub-
was awarded to Noida-based HSCC. vate sector becomes the source of vac- lic interest litigation (PIL) led by S.P.
However, after nine years and cines, there is every likelihood of the Shukla, former Special Secretary to the
spending Rs.11.86 crore, the rm, in cost of the vaccines going up, defeating Ministry of Health and Family Wel-
December 2006, expressed its inabil- the very objective of providing essen- fare and a former Member of the Plan-
ity and disinterest in completing the tial vaccines at an affordable price. In- ning Commission, and
project. [This] epitomises the cava- deed, the Minister recently conrmed non-governmental organisations
lier fashion with which the Ministry this unfortunate development to a tel- against the government, including the
has treated the issue. The Committee evision channel. Though private sector Health Minister, the Health Secretary,
views with serious concern the admis- units had made a commitment to the the DCGI, the directors of the three
sion on the part of M/s HSCC about Ministry on paper, they were now de- public sector units and the respective
their not having any expertise to con- manding a much higher price. State governments.
struct a scientic structure to cGMP The bench, in turn, issued notices
standards. The Committee is of the
rm opinion that the Ministry is re- The Committee to the respondents. The Parliamentary
Standing Committee report streng-
sponsible to a large extent for the pre-
vailing unsatisfactory situation in the feels that the thens the petitioners prayers signif-
three institutes thereby leading to
shortage of life saving vaccines with the Ministry is The petition asked the court to
make recommendations to ensure the
serious impact on UIP and child
health care programmes in the coun- responsible for availability of essential vaccines at af-
fordable prices, including directing
As reported earlier in Frontline, the prevailing the government to restart production
at the public sector units. Drawing the
besides suspension of production, the
DCGI also ordered the destruction of situation in the courts attention to media reports that
alleged improper and illegal arrange-
held-over stocks, in particular at the
Chennai unit, the sole manufacturer of three units. ments between some of the public sec-
tor units producing vaccines and
BCG in the country, stating that prod- various private rms, especially Green
ucts manufactured at the institute As regards the proposed vaccine Signal Bio Pharma, a company owned
could not be used owing to non-con- park, the Standing Committee noted by P. Sundaraparipoornan and regis-
formity with cGMP standards. This, that with the three vaccine-manufac- tered in 2005, the PIL asked the court
according to the Standing Committee, turing public sector units already func- to constitute a committee of experts to
was done on February 20, 2008. tioning for so many decades the right investigate these allegations. The
Until the inspections were carried course of action would have been to scope of the Standing Committees re-
out, the institute had been meeting the make sincere efforts to revamp them. port, unfortunately, neither included
requirements of BCG vaccine for the Vaccine park coming up at the these aspects nor some of the ques-
entire countrywithout any reports of cost of already existing units cannot be tions raised by Rangarajan.
any adverse effects. If the vaccines justied from any point of view. This However, according to sources, the
supplied under the UIP conformed to project could take a couple of years Prime Ministers Office has taken a
the standards of safety, efcacy and before manufacturing and supply of strong view of the entire issue and has
quality, then what could be the logic to vaccines could actually take place. In directed the Ministry to seek clearance
order the destruction and writing off of conclusion, the committee recom- from the Expenditure Finance Com-
the stock by the DCGI? the Standing mends that the Ministry revoke the mittee for the vaccine park proposal
Committee asked. suspension of the vaccine-manufac- before bringing it up to the Cabinet.
It also noted with dismay that, in turing licences at the earliest. The Ministry will be directed to submit
the wake of the closure of the units, Until such time that new infras- a detailed report to the Finance Com-
there have been vaccine shortages for tructure is built conforming to D&CR mittee on all the outstanding issues in
the UIP across the country. The de- norms, these institutes should be al- the matter, the sources said.

1 1 8 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

The drug menace

In the past few years, cooperation among nations has been seen as essential even
to touch the fringe of the problem of drug trafcking.

[T]he war on drugs has been a disas- passing on crucial information to a

terthe 100-year struggle has been il- dreaded drug gang called Sinaloa. Rel-
liberal, murderous and pointless...the evant here is the recent arrest by the
least bad policy is to legalise drugs. Maharashtra Police of an Indian Po-
The Economist (March 7-13, lice Service ofcer who allegedly got
2009) mixed up in the drug trade after a dep-
NE of the major handi- utation to the NCB.

O caps a criminal justice re-

searcher faces in India is
the non-availability of up-
to-date and reliable statis-
tics. Crime gures put out annually by
the National Crime Records Bureau
(NCRB) and organisations such as the
More than earlier, in the past few
years, the need for proactive cooper-
ation between nations is seen as abso-
lutely essential to touch at least the
fringe of the problem. No nation can
remain complacent because the pat-
terns of consumption and the routes
Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) of the used for transporting drugs keep shift-
Finance Ministry tell only a part of the
story. It is not because these agencies
Law and Order ing, and it is in everybodys interest
that assistance is lent generously and
want to play down the magnitude of ungrudgingly.
the problem. The fact is they depend
R.K. RAGHAVAN It is against this backdrop that the
on inputs from a variety of sources, United Nations Ofce of Drugs and
especially the State police depart- The nagging question is: Do these Crime (UNODC) earlier this month
ments, which have a stake in proving gures adequately reect the ground convened its annual conference at its
to the rest of the world that crime is situation, especially in the light of the Vienna headquarters to review the
under control and they are doing their fact that India is a lucrative market for progress of enforcement. More than
job very well indeed. The tendency, drug dealers and is also a relatively safe 100 nations took part in the deliber-
therefore, is to ignore most reported transit point for prohibited substances ations amidst visible scepticism that
crimes and suppress information on originating from Afghanistan, a coun- the labours of the U.N. body had be-
them whenever possible. This is my try notorious for poppy cultivation? come too routine to have any impact at
impression not only of conventional (Afghanistan incidentally has edged all on a grave situation.
crimes but of those induced by the out Morocco in the production of can- Interestingly, this year marks the
trade in and consumption of drugs. nabis resin.) 100th anniversary of international
It is an open secret that drug addic- Ironically, the same misgivings cooperation in the ght against drugs.
tion is widely prevalent in our major that we express with regard to India Anti-opium activists managed to bring
cities and that it is not difcult to buy are aired in countries such as the Unit- enough pressure on nations to hold the
drugs at a moments notice in the vi- ed States and the United Kingdom and rst conference of its kind in 1909 in
cinity of some of our educational cam- in parts of Europe and Africa. There is Shanghai. This paved the way for an
puses. The gures quoted by the NCB reasonable criticism that laws in most International Opium Convention of
in its annual report for 2006 do point of the regions of the world do not have The Hague in 1912. Since then, there
to some activity on the part of enforce- the required bite and that enforcement have been three conventions, all under
ment agencies at the Centre and in the agencies are either hampered by a lack the auspices of the U.N., in 1961, 1971
States. Seizures of opium (2,826 kg), of resources or by downright corrup- and 1988. These did bring about more
heroin (1,182 kg), ganja (157,710 kg) tion. A case in point is Mexico, where a than symbolic improvements. As a re-
and hashish (3,852 kg) and cocaine federal prosecutor working for the at- sult, drug consumption across nations
(206 kg) may be modest but cannot be torney general was charged last No- stabilised at around 5 per cent of the
dismissed as wholly inconsequential. vember with taking bribes in return for worlds adult population. Deaths

F R O N T L I N E 1 1 9
Column APRIL 10, 2009

traceable directly to drugs are around be less and less temptation to buy
200,000 a year, a small number com- them, except when an individual is an
pared with deaths resulting from alco- addict.
hol and tobacco consumption.
But those who gathered in Vienna SWEDISH EXAMPLE
a few weeks ago were not exactly im- As against this universal trend, there is
pressed. They said that these gures an odd country here and there that is
did not reect the ground situation, very rigid about enforcing anti-drug
which, in their opinion, was fast get- laws. Sweden is one such nation,
ting out of control. Not only were new where possession is a criminal offence
and dangerous drugs nding their way and is strictly enforced. The UNODC

rapidly into new centres, but the gangs would like to hold this up as an ex-
dealing in them were found to be in- ample worth emulating. This debate
genious in nding fresh routes to on whether to punish drug offenders
transport them unnoticed by enforce- guilty only of consumption is similar to
ment agencies. UNODC chief Antonio the one we see in respect of capital
Maria Costa himself admitted at the O P I U M , W O RTH OVE R Rs.3 crore, punishment and will continue unre-
conference that the problem was con- seized by the Upparpet police in solved.
tained but not solved. This candid Karnataka. A 2008 photograph. Ironically, Costa has taken the po-
assessment should make all right- sition that decriminalisation of drugs
thinking leaders do more in their re- came in handy for the drug lords. will be a historic mistake. It is dif-
spective countries to ensure that drug Small gangs making small prots from cult to believe that he will carry any
consumption does not escalate. Suc- marijuana and heroin soon became conviction with many nations that are
cess here would hit at what Costa re- rich beyond their wildest dreams more concerned with conventional
ferred to as a criminal black market of through trading in the highly priced crimes. It is equally true that those
staggering proportions. cocaine owing copiously from Col- who are pleading for drug offences to
ombia into Mexico rst and later into be taken out of statute books, except
SURGE IN DRUG PRODUCTION the U.S., where there is a huge market when they directly lead to violence,
Ground realities, however, are forbid- for them. The kind of violence this has ignore the fact that consumption of
ding. The World Drug Report 2008, spawned in Mexico is unbelievable. drugs not only impairs public health
prepared by the UNODC, recorded Since 2006, 800 policemen and ar- but actually generates a wide range of
that since 2007 there was an undoubt- my soldiers have died in the battle with criminal activities.
ed expansion of the area under opium the gangs. The losses suffered by the The Vienna conference, despite
and coca cultivation. For instance, in gangs are far more. The point is, in an wide differences over existing U.N.
Colombia, a determined President Al- expanding consumer market such as policy and strategy with regard to
varo Uribe, saw to it that hundreds of the U.S., there is no way we can put drugs, adopted an action plan that laid
thousands of hectares of land was down heavily armed rapacious gangs emphasis on a balance between mea-
sprayed with weed killer in an attempt of the sort that haunt Mexican Presi- sures to curb supply and demand and
to reduce coca cultivation, which in dent Felipe Calderon and his dedicat- those to strengthen health care and
fact fell by half between 1999 and ed ofcials who want to see a drug-free social services. In specic terms, the
2006. This proved to be only a tempor- Mexico. conference established 2019 as a target
ary success. Latest reports point to a Costa is fully conscious that stiffer date to eliminate or reduce signi-
surge in production. anti-drug legislation is no answer to cantly and measurably drug produc-
Also, the UNODC report for 2008 the current malaise. He is aware that tion and trade. This is a compromise
found consumption to be on the rise in many countries are rooting for legal- between those who believe that the
some developing countries. Most sig- isation of drugs to get out of an awk- current policy has failed and those who
nicantly, new routes are emerging as ward situation. This trend is growing, think that the struggle is worth pursu-
safe corridors for conveying prohibited if the action taken in many States of ing relentlessly.
substances. This is why Mexico has the U.S. is any indication. In as many We hope to see this percolating
become such a dangerous place in the as 13 States, the police have been ad- down to Asia where the current trends
past few years. Drugs produced in Col- vised to ignore mere possession of can- are alarming. With the resurgence of
ombia were initially being transported nabis by a citizen. Such possession is the Taliban, which derives most of its
to the rest of the world through the actually not an offence in many Euro- resources from poppy cultivation, Af-
Caribbean islands. Once the U.S. and pean countries, such as Spain, Portu- ghanistan is going to pose many a
other countries sealed this route effec- gal and Italy. The belief is that once problem to those who desire to see a
tively, Mexicos lax administration drugs can be openly bought there will drug-free world.

1 2 0 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

Dharavi and Slumdog armed struggle of the LTTE
I AGREE with Mitu Senguptas views on to change its constitutional
THE Cover Story (Sinking framework. The real loser is
state, March 27) conrms
Dharavi, but not with her views on Slumdog the hapless citizens of the
that Talibanism has reac- Millionaire (Hollow message, March 27). country who are caught be-
hed the heart of Pakistan. The lm is about the life experiences of a few tween the merciless jehadis
The terrorist attack on and a powerless state.
Sri Lankan cricketers in La- individuals and has a powerful and convinc- For the West, which has
hore shows how awed pol- ing storyline. It should not be interpreted as a been blindly supporting Pa-
icies have made the security portrayal of life in Dharavi in general. There kistan and pumping in mil-
scenario in South Asia pre- lions of dollars as aid, the
carious. The civilian govern- are lms made on heinous crimes committed writing on the wall should
ment in Islamabad is in cities but they do not necessarily portray be clear.
powerless as it has lost the BICHU MUTTATHARA
all cities as dens of criminals.
battle against the Islamists. KHADKI, PUNE
It has no courage to disman- I think it would be wrong to look at the
tle the terrorist infrastruc- portrayal of a few isolated characters from a
ture on its territory. Elections
It is for Pakistan to de-
slum as being representative of an entire lo- IT looks like the coming
cide what it wants. It should cality or population. The cinematic treat- general elections will, in all
understand that any bid to ment of Slumdog Millionaire is undeniably likelihood, throw up a hung
aid fundamentalist ele- Parliament (Alliance
ments covertly or overtly outstanding. route, March 27). Once
will only aggravate its prob- again, the ow of money and
lems. Restraint and alert- liquor to woo voters as well
ness, besides patience and as muscle power will play a
trust, may be the only way weak and has no control suspect that the attack was dominant role. Indepen-
out. over the Army; the Army, in carried out by internal or ex- dents could turn out to be
DILBAG RAI turn, has no control over the ternal elements who either the kingmakers in the end.
CHANDIGARH ISI. This is the real tragedy wish to destabilise the Pa- K.R. SRINIVASAN
IN the wake of the recent of Pakistan. The jehadists kistan government or to iso- SECUNDERABAD
political crisis, increased are under nobodys control. late it further
terrorist activities, the Tali- As a result some sort of an- internationally. It needs to
bans resurgence, all-round archy prevails in that be probed whose agenda Education
anarchy and, above all, U.S. country. this attack was. THE article Report card
President Barack Obamas The Pakistan govern- K.S. JAYTHEERTHA (March 27) provided a
plan to expand the covert ment must restore rule of BANGALORE glimpse into the state of
U.S. war in Pakistan far be- law and promote good go- THE harsh reality is that the education in the country.
yond the tribal areas near vernance. democratically elected Pa- What has been found in the
the border with Afghanis- DR. K.K. AMMANNAYA kistan government runs the case of certain North Indian
tan, the power-hungry mil- UDUPI, KARNATAKA risk of being overrun by the States may prove to be true
itary is likely to take over the ASSURED of security re- Taliban or the military. for the rest of the country.
country in the near future. served for VVIPs, Sri Lanka The political leadership The PROBE survey deserves
K.P. RAJAN chose to play in Pakistan appears too weak to put up appreciation for the magni-
MUMBAI when the rest of the cricket- any signicant resistance to tude of the eld work, the
IT is clear that there is no ing world remained wary. the formidable Taliban in intensity of the analysis and
governance of any sort in Pakistan-based militants the absence of any active the quality of its results.
Pakistan. Jehadi terror is have no reasons to bear a cooperation from the armed Great thinkers have
the main issue to be ad- grudge against Sri Lanka, forces. Even a militarily less equated opening of a school
dressed there. The govern- let alone its cricketers. powerful Sri Lanka did not to the closing down of a
ment in Pakistan is very Hence, there is reason to yield to the decades-long hundred prisons. Inspiring

F R O N T L I N E 1 2 1
APRIL 10, 2009

teaching practices and In fact, the slums are not shows that it is not merely a nism that was set up at the
promising educational stan- central to the storyline at glamorous cast or the mil- time of the Third Central
dards would bring about in- all; there are many Bolly- lions spent on making a mo- Pay Commission, Central
valuable results. wood movies that have por- vie that appeals to the government representatives
Activity-based learning and trayed slums in a worse international jury but the contended that any increase
due space for sports would light. content of a lm. in the wages of government
create generations that Secondly, who says ev- S. BALAKRISHNAN employees would be only at
would be strong physically ery Hollywood movie made JAMSHEDPUR, the cost of ordinary poor
and mentally. with an Indian theme has to JHARKHAND people. K.G. Bose, the then
S. V. VENUGOPALAN be committed to elevating president of the National
CHENNAI the status of India interna- Federation of P&T Em-
tionally? What is wrong Additional D.A. ployees, countered this ar-
with bureaucrats trying to gument by saying that if the
Lawyers vs police improve the quality of hous- IT is highly disappointing total sum of increased wag-
LAWYERS of Tamil Nadu ing in these slums? The real that Jayati Ghosh has crit- es to be paid to the Central
seek action against the po- issue is that whenever the icised the Central govern- government was to be spent
lice while expecting their government succeeds in ments proposal to release on schemes to generate em-
own acts of violence to be substituting slums with im- additional Dearness Allow- ployment to the ordinary
overlooked (Courting trou- proved housing, slum dwell- ance amounting to people, the employees were
ble, March 27). As it is, ers, instead of enjoying their Rs.5,000 crore to its em- ready to forego their in-
hapless litigants have been new homes, prefer to sell or ployees (Exercise in iner- creased wages.
held to ransom by these law- rent them out and then set tia, March 27). DANIES JESURAJA
less lawyers. Tax payers up slums elsewhere. Now Additional D.A. is a CHENNAI
funds are being wasted by which Hollywood director hard-won right of the em-
their continuous disruption can make a movie to address ployees. Several lakhs of
of court functioning. that problem appropriately employees and pensioners Neighbours
A. MEHRA while not damaging the im- as also the employees of INDIA shares its borders
MUMBAI age of India? State governments and with small and large coun-
VIDYA CHINOY Central and State govern- tries. But the fact remains
NEW DELHI ment undertakings will be that none of its neighbours
The Oscars THE 81st annual Academy paid this D.A. to compen- loves it despite its helpful
IT was enlightening to read Awards will remain etched sate for the erosion of their and peace-loving nature
the two articles on the Os- in the Indian memory for wages owing to price rise. (Staying alert, March 27).
car-winning Slumdog Mil- years to come. This is not Therefore, it does not defy For instance, India sent
lionaire (March 27). We because a lm based on In- any logic as contended by the Indian Peace Keeping
salute A.R. Rahman for his dia swept the Oscars but be- the writer. The consequen- Force to Sri Lanka as a
inherent talent and for win- cause the world witnessed tial increase in the purchas- goodwill gesture but it did
ning the prestigious Acade- so many talents from India, ing power of these not yield any positive result.
my awards. Sure, Slumdog namely A.R. Rahman, Gul- employees would certainly Rather it led to the Liber-
Millionaire has given us zar and Resul Pookutty. result in increased sales of ation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
moments of joy amidst eco- A.R. Rahman has made the goods, which in turn would assassinating former Prime
nomic crisis and terrorism, world sit up and take note of rise the manufacturing ca- Minister Rajiv Gandhi who
but it is not correct to com- popular Hindi lm music. pacity of producers and gen- brokered the Indo-Sri Lan-
pare it with other great Indi- That he bagged the Oscar erate more employment. ka Accord.
an lms. for the composition of Jai Jayati Ghosh asks why Initiatives such as the
DR. SANJIV GUPTA Ho, which is in Hindi, is this amount could not be Non-Aligned Movement,
PERTH, AUSTRALIA testimony to the global ac- spent on Centrally-spon- South Asian Association for
IN her article Hollow mes- ceptance of Indias lm mu- sored schemes that will di- Regional Cooperation and
sage Mitu Sengupta has sic. Just like the protagonist rectly benet ordinary other cooperation-building
unfairly criticised Slumdog in Slumdog Millionaire, people. She attempts to cre- efforts have unfortunately
Millionaire for failing to Rahman too had to over- ate an articial cleavage be- not yielded the desired re-
portray the positive dyna- come numerous odds in his tween high wage-earning sults. Let us rely upon our
mism of slums. First, the life before he achieved suc- Central government em- defence might and use it as a
movie is not about slums. It cess. Also, the success of ployees and ordinary peo- deterrent, should any of our
is the story about a boy who Slumdog Millionaire and ple. In the meeting of the neighbours confront us.
spent his childhood in one. Smile Pinky at the Oscars Joint Consultative Mecha- This will also help in miti-

1 2 2 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

gating cross-border terro- because it was aimed at de-

rism effectively. veloping the most populous
SUBRAMANYA and large geographical ar-
CHANDRASHEKAR eas falling under East Ben-
BANGALORE gal. A vast majority of
people, comprising the
Muslims in particular and
Kabir Das the lower social strata of
KABIR was a legendary Hindus, saw in the anti-par-
spiritual gure who provid- tition agitation a resolve of
ed sustenance for diverse the upper strata to block
contemporary ideas (In their advancement.
search of Kabir, March 27). Though Sir Surendra-
He was a disciple of Rama- nath Banerjee, who was the
nanda. The Arabic term Ka- unquestioned leader of
bir means great. It is one of Swadeshi Movement
the 99 names of Allah in Is- [1905-1911], did not take
lamic theology. long to show his narrow-
Kabir believed in secula- mindedness when the Brit-
rism. His identication of ish government urged Indi-
Ram with Rahim paved ans to join the armed forces
the way for a unique reli- to ght for the Empire in the
gious experience. His First World War, he ap-
monotheism reveals Nirgu- pealed to boys from well-off
na Brahma. He was a Mu- sections to heed the call and
wahhid, a believer in the some 5,000 people joined
unity of God. His concept of the army. Until 1911 he vig-
Shunya reveals the idea orously campaigned against
that an individual is at- the partition of Bengal on
tached to the supreme one, grounds of common lan-
the ultimate reality. guage, culture, common at-
Through his two-line verses, titude to life, brotherhood
he revealed love, mysticism and communal harmony.
and his unbending love for K. BISWAS
THE global nancial melt-
Partition down has had an adverse ef-
THE review of Joya Chat- fect on India (Vanishing
terjis Spoils of Partition jobs, March 13). The ser-
by A.G. Noorani (March 13) vice sector is facing setbacks
throws light on aspects that and its magnitude is not less
the Bengali elite and intelli- than that in the U.S. In such
gentsia would feel embar- circumstances a balanced
rassed to expose, much less approach needs to be taken
admit candidly. The dread- by our policymakers to ar-
ful experiences and suffer- rest the nancial mayhem.
ings of vast sections of ATUL THAKUR
people, particularly in East GHAZIABAD, U.P.
Bengal in 1905-1911, culmi-
nated in the partition of ANNOUNCEMENT
Bengal in 1947. The admin- Letters, whether by surface mail or
e-mail, must carry the full postal
istrative reason for the par- address and the full name, or the
tition was most justied name with initials.

F R O N T L I N E 1 2 3
Cover Story APRIL 10, 2009

Sense of betrayal
Women voted for the UPA with high hopes, but the governments responses to
issues concerning them have been marked by tokenism. B Y T . K . R A J A L A K S H M I

GE N D E R I S S UE S They feel particularly let down by the non-passage

of the Womens Reservation Bill and the absence

of any attempt to enact legislation to address rape

and other forms of sexual violence.
SEVERAL national womens organisations have ameliorative measures for women, they said.
on their own prepared a charter summing up many On the social justice front, despite a recommen-
of their long-standing demands. They want the char- dation by the Justice Ranganath Misra Committee,
ter to be a part of the political agenda of the parties the claims of Dalit Christians to reservation in the
contesting the 15th Lok Sabha elections. The orga- Scheduled Castes (S.C.) category have been by-
nisations recalled how women across the country, passed. Instead, a Bill was hastily passed in the Rajya
hoping for a better political and economic deal from Sabha, excluding 47 institutes of excellence from the
the new government, voted against communal forces purview of reservation for S.Cs and the Scheduled
in 2004. In their joint statement, the 11 signatories to Tribes. Our experience in cases of rape involving
the charter pointed out all the unfullled promises Dalit women is that the police never register a case
made by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) go- under the S.C. & S.T. (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,
vernment. said Vimal Thorat, representing the All India Dalit
We feel particularly let down by the non-pas- Mahila Adhikar Manch.
sage of the Womens Reservation Bill, said Sudha The failures have not been only on the political
Sundararaman, general secretary, All India Demo- front. Despite the recession affecting almost every
cratic Womens Association (AIDWA). The womens sector, including the export sector where women are
organisations were taken by surprise when on the employed in large numbers, the government has
last day of the Lok Sabha, the government hurriedly failed to take any steps to bail out the industrial
announced that it was going to set up a Mission for working class. Incidents of violence against women
Womens Empowerment. It was the biggest betrayal, have gone up in the past ve years. Owing to the
noted the other signatories to the charter, which sustained pressure from womens groups, the go-
include the National Federation of Indian Women vernment incorporated changes in the Hindu Suc-
(NFIW), the Joint Womens Programme, the All cession Act and enacted the Protection of Women
India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, the Young from Domestic Violence Act. Even this has turned
Womens Christian Association and the Guild of out to be a half-hearted exercise, as no budgetary
Service. support is provided for the effective implementation
Representatives of AIDWA and the NFIW point- of such legal measures.
ed out that even where the UPA had done something Similarly, there was no attempt to enact compre-
creditable like passing the National Rural Employ- hensive legislation to address rape and all forms of
ment Guarantee Act (NREGA), it was only after the sexual assault, including child rape. The Bill for the
repeated intervention of the Left parties. Even then, protection of women against sexual harassment at
the Act was effectively sabotaged by setting up high the workplace remains in cold storage despite sever-
productivity norms, difcult working conditions and al rounds of discussions on it involving the govern-
unequal wages. On the agrarian crisis that had ad- ment, the National Commission for Women and
versely affected women, the government had ig- other womens groups. The implementation of the
nored the recommendations of the M.S. Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Tech-
Swaminathan Committee, which included specic niques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994, has

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APRIL 10, 2009

AN INTE G R A T E D C H I L D Development Services centre at Erode, Tamil Nadu. Womens groups have asked
political parties to extend the ICDS to all habitations and improve child care facilities for agricultural and
unorganised workers.
also been tardy. The womens groups social security to agricultural workers
have asked political parties to take up and workers in the unorganised sector,
issues relating to the universalisation a large proportion of whom are wom-
and strengthening of the Public Dis- en.
tribution System; the extension of the On the legal front, the womens
Integrated Child Development Servic- groups demanded the passage of the
es to all habitations; the regularisation Womens Reservation Bill. Additional-
of anganwadi workers and ensuring ly, they sought a law to penalise sexual
just wages for the accredited social harassment at the workplace and sex-
health activist, the lynchpin of the Na- ual assault, repealing of Section 377 of
tional Rural Health Mission; and in- the Indian Penal Code, and a separate
creasing allocation for health and law to deal with child abuse, honour

education. killings, acid attacks and so on. They

Other demands include extending said laws were needed to ensure joint
the NREGA to urban areas and remov- matrimonial property rights for wom-
ing the upper limit of 100 days of em- A GRI C U LT U RA L LAB OUR E R S I N en and to check trafcking in women
ployment; providing loans at low Visakhapatnam. Womens groups and children.
interest rates for women in self-help allege that the UPA government The expectations from the UPA
groups; and enacting comprehensive ignored the recommendations of the were high, but it soon became clear
legislation to regulate the working M.S. Swaminathan Committee, that like its predecessor, the National
conditions of providing maternity which had included specic Democratic Alliance, it was interested
benets, public child care facilities and ameliorative measures for women. only in tokenism, they said.

F R O N T L I N E 1 2 5
Cover Story APRIL 10, 2009

American embrace
A serious accusation against the UPA government is that in the ve years of its
tenure it reduced India to the status of a junior partner of the U.S. B Y J O H N C H E R I A N

Under the UPA government, India distanced itself
from its traditional friends and from groupings

such as NAM. In its quest for the nuclear deal, it

put the Iran pipeline project on the back burner.
FOREIGN policy issues do not usually gure that he had done for the country. Abhishek Singhvi,
prominently in Indian elections. This time too, the the Congress party spokesman, even went to the
issues that have gained prominence in the run-up to extent of suggesting that the Bharat Ratna, Indias
the general elections are domestic ones. The Con- highest civilian award, be conferred on Bush. In its
gress party, which heads the government, had until ve years in power, the UPA governments foreign
recently touted the India-United States nuclear deal policy focus was almost exclusively on the U.S. As for
as one of the major achievements of its United Pro- Bush, the only signicant achievement he can claim
gressive Alliance (UPA) government. Not too long after his eight years at the helm is the nuclear deal
ago, the Congress staked the future of the govern- with India, which signicantly enhances Americas
ment to secure the nuclear deal. But, as the count- strategic interests in Asia.
down to the general elections began, the The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) go-
much-touted nuclear deal, which cements Indias vernment led by the Bharatiya Janata Party was the
close strategic links with the U.S., is not being high- rst to shatter the broad domestic political consen-
lighted either by the Congress or by its allies in the sus that existed on foreign policy issues, rst with the
UPA. Pokhran nuclear tests and then with its unabashed
The Left parties, which are expected to play a key catering to the interests of Washington in the region.
role in the formation of the next government at the Brajesh Mishra, National Security Adviser to then
Centre, are giving a lot of prominence to foreign Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, even talked
policy issues. They have demanded a radical reorien- about the need for a Washington-Tel Aviv-New Del-
tation of the countrys foreign policy. The election hi axis.
manifesto of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) When the UPA government was sworn in, it was
says the party will work towards an independent and hoped that the domestic political consensus would
non-aligned foreign policy. It specically opposes be restored. Once in power, however, the Congress
the U.S. war on terror and military interventions in party followed the same path. The Common Mini-
the region. The CPI(M) has also demanded an mum Programme (CMP), which was framed before
amendment to the Constitution to make legislative the formation of the UPA government, specically
sanction mandatory for any international treaty. mentioned a nuanced foreign policy. The CMP
The UPA government signed the nuclear deal with called for good relations with all major powers, in-
the U.S. without taking Parliament into its cluding the U.S., but at the same time stressed on
condence. strengthening non-alignment and multipolarity.
Critics of the government allege that in the ve
years of UPA rule India has been reduced to the PRO-WEST TILT
status of a junior partner of the U.S. Prime Minister But the Congress from the outset was determined to
Manmohan Singhs praise for George W. Bush when implement its own foreign policy blueprint. The late
he was President for his key role in securing the J.N. Dixit, the rst National Security Adviser to the
nuclear deal is cited as an illustration. Manmohan UPA government, told this correspondent that it was
Singh, in his last ofcial meeting with Bush, said that the Congress government under P.V. Narasimha
the people of India deeply loved the latter for all Rao that initiated the pro-West tilt in the countrys

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APRIL 10, 2009

P R IM E M I N I S T E R MA N M O H A N Singh and President George Bush in Washington on September 26, 2008.
foreign policy in the early 1990s in Zionist state after the massacre in Ga- ly cooperate in the elds of intelligence
keeping with post-Cold-War realities. za. Instead, the UPA government fur- and surveillance. The chiefs of the Fed-
He said that the NDA government was ther intensied its security and eral Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and
only emulating the Congress. military links with Israel. the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
As soon as it was in ofce, the Con- The neoconservative Bush admin- have already visited India to liaise with
gress went about further strengthen- istration had charted a special role for their counterparts here.
ing its strategic ties with the U.S. and India in the region. After 9/11, senior Leon Panetta, the newly appointed
its surrogate in the region, Israel. This, American ofcials were quoted as say- CIA chief made a high-prole visit to
despite the fact that the UPA govern- ing that the U.S. had only India and the subcontinent in the third week of
ment was dependent on the Left par- Israel as allies for the long haul in its March. American intelligence chiefs
ties for its survival. At most there was global war against terror. The U.S. are used to getting a red carpet wel-
only muted criticism of U.S. and Is- gave Israel the green signal to sell come in Islamabad and Kabul. But
raeli policies in West Asia during the high-tech weaponry to India, includ- such is the importance being accorded
UPAs ve-year stint at the Centre. The ing early warning systems and anti- these days to security cooperation with
violation of the sovereignty of coun- missile systems. By the end of the UPA the U.S. that New Delhi too went over-
tries such as Lebanon and Syria by governments term, Israel had board in welcoming Panetta. For the
Israel and the horrendous atrocities in emerged as the top weapons supplier rst time, a CIA chief was granted a
Gaza that followed did not prompt a to India, replacing Russia. Many mul- meeting with the countrys Home
strong response from the Indian go- ti-billion-dollar defence and aviation Minister, P. Chidambaram. Panetta
vernment. The Left parties called for deals have already been signed with also met with other top ofcials of the
the snapping of strategic ties with the the U.S. The U.S. and India now close- Indian security establishment during

F R O N T L I N E 1 2 7
APRIL 10, 2009

his familiarisation trip. This was his UPA was the signing of the key India- Iran for continuing with its civilian
rst trip outside the U.S. after taking U.S. Defence Framework Agreement nuclear programme. Pakistan, despite
over his new post. in June 2005. The Left parties warned being among the U.S. closest allies,
the government at the time that the has gone ahead and signed a gas pipe-
CPI(M) STATEMENT ne print in it along with the Hyde Act, line deal with Iran. All this is not sur-
The CPI(M) Polit Bureau in a strongly approved by the U.S. Congress in con- prising.
worded statement said that the meet- nection with the nuclear deal, would Condoleezza Rice, in a speech in
ing between the CIA chief and Chi- make Indian foreign policy con- June 2007, advised the Indian govern-
dambaram marks a new stage in gruent to Americas foreign policy. ment to distance itself from groups
Indo-U.S. collaboration. The state- The prediction was not off the mark. In such as NAM. She also said that NAM
ment highlights the fact that this is the a volte-face, rarely witnessed in the an- had lost its meaning. NAM is the only
rst time that a CIA chief has been nals of Indian foreign policy, the Indi- forum that unites all developing coun-
received at such a high political level, an government voted with the U.S. at tries. It is one of the few groupings that
signalling the new status of the CIA in the International Atomic Energy question the untrammelled military
India. The statement said this was Agency Board meeting in September spending of the U.S. despite the Cold
further evidence that under the Man- 2005 to refer Irans nuclear le to the War having ended more than a decade
mohan Singh government, India was United Nations Security Council. A and a half ago. It has been critical of
fast becoming like Pakistan where the spokesman for the Iranian govern- the preventive wars and regime
CIA and FBI chiefs meet with the Inte- ment said that Iran was particularly changes the U.S. has resorted to. India
rior Minister and the Prime Minister. surprised with Indias vote. has been very circumspect in reacting
The CPI(M) statement pointed out A year later, the India-U.S. nuclear to U.S. adventurism. An opinion poll
that U.S. security and military agen- agreement was formally inked during taken last year and published in Fi-
cies had a long history of destabilising Bushs visit to India. During that visit, nancial Times showed that the major-
governments viewed as inimical to the two countries also signed the Lo- ity of Europeans viewed the U.S. as the
American interests. gistics Support Agreement, which biggest threat to international stabil-
The role being played by U.S. se- gives the U.S. military the privilege of ity. But the Indian elite seems xated
curity and military agencies in the using Indian facilities for mainte- on the desire of turning their country
country and the manner in which the nance, servicing, communications and into a regional superpower with U.S.
Congress-led government is promot- refuelling. The two countries also set help.
ing such ties should be a matter of up a Global Democracy Initiative to The UPA government preferred to
serious concern for all those who wish highlight to the world that the part- make the U.S. the arbiter in South
to protect national sovereignty and the nership was based on shared values. Asia. In neighbouring Bangladesh, the
integrity of our democratic system, The democracy initiative was essen- army was allowed to take over the go-
the statement said. tially the brainchild of the neoconser- vernment with the tacit approval of the
Many countries in the region have vative American think tank the U.S. and India. It was Washington on
started viewing the extremely close ties National Endowment for Democracy. behalf of New Delhi that did most of
between India and Israel as a tacit alli- For many Non-Aligned Movement the diplomatic heavy lifting to per-
ance between the two strongest mil- (NAM) member-countries, U.S.-spon- suade Islamabad to cooperate fully on
itary powers in the area. The biggest sored democracy is a code word for issues relating to terrorism. It is Wash-
backers of closer ties between India regime change. ington that is trying to facilitate a
and the U.S. are the neoconservatives Under the UPA government, India breakthrough in the continuing politi-
and those with ties to the right-wing distanced itself considerably from its cal impasse on Kashmir.
Likud Party in Israel, which had a lot traditional friends in the region and In other parts of the world, govern-
of clout with the Bush administration. from groupings such as NAM a trend ments are going out of their way to
They argued that the Pakistan Army that had started under the NDA go- keep Washington out of the picture
was unreliable in the war against ter- vernment. In its quest for the nuclear while resolving bilateral disputes. This
ror. deal with the U.S., the UPA govern- is especially true in Latin America,
The U.S. also wants to build India ment put the gas pipeline project with which the U.S. has for long considered
up as a counterweight in the region to Iran on the back burner. Condoleezza its backyard. The resolution of the seri-
China. It is no secret that the U.S. Rice, Secretary of State in the Bush ous dispute in Zimbabwe through the
views China as the new emerging su- administration, explicitly warned the efforts of regional states is another il-
perpower that in due course will chal- Indian government against going lustration. The Southern African De-
lenge its hegemonic policies. ahead with the deal with Iran. In fact, velopment Council (SADC), despite
The rst concrete illustration of Washington had prevailed on New arm-twisting from the West, prepared
the Congress partys betrayal of the Delhi to implement many of the tough the grounds for political cohabitation
foreign policy pledges made in the sanctions the West had clamped on between hitherto sworn enemies.

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The changing realities in South seems to have lost its momentum. Beijing Olympics last year. China has
Asia in the post-9/11 period forced the The UPA governments Afghanis- been adopting an even-handed atti-
Pakistani leadership to be more ac- tan policy seems equally confused. tude on the Kashmir issue. The Indian
commodative to Indias concerns. While some Western governments media went overboard in their cov-
When General Pervez Musharraf was have accepted the inevitability of a Ta- erage of the disturbances in Tibet early
at the helm of affairs and was in a liban military victory in the long run, last year. In contrast, the Chinese
position to deliver, he offered India a External Affairs Minister Pranab media showed restraint while report-
lot of concessions on the Kashmir is- Mukherjee insists on categorising the ing on the widespread violence that
sue. But the Indian government dith- Taliban as a terrorist group and a occurred a few months later in the
ered, fondly hoping that more threat to civilisation. His statement Kashmir valley.
concessions would come from a belea- came at a time when the Barack Oba- The India-U.S. nuclear deal gener-
guered government in Islamabad, ma administration was trying to open ated some diplomatic friction between
which was under increasing pressure talks with the good Taliban. the two countries. Beijing had initially
to deal with India. A resolution of the Relations with China, Indias other raised some queries about the special
Siachen issue was very much on the important neighbour, during the ve treatment being meted out by Wash-
table. years of UPA rule were marked with a ington to a state that was not a signato-
Now, after the terrorist attacks in degree of mutual distrust. Beijing had ry to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Mumbai and with a weak civilian go- reason to be upset by the sudden surge Treaty. But in the end, Beijing did
vernment in Pakistan, the dialogue in the activities of the Dalai Lama and nothing to endanger the deal and did
process between the two countries his supporters in the run-up to the not upset the consensus in the crucial
Nuclear Suppliers Group meet in
Vienna late last year.
China had reasons to be upset. The
UPA government signed up with the
Quadrilateral Forum in 2007. It is a
U.S.-Japanese initiative to rm up an
anti-China alliance. The group con-
sists of the U.S., Japan, Australia and
India. Under the auspices of the group,
military exercises involving the navies
of the four countries took place in
2008. The Bush administration had
planned an Asian NATO (North At-
lantic Treaty Organisation)-like
grouping with India as one of its major
If the electorate opts for a progres-
sive government at the Centre, there
will have to be a drastic overhaul of
foreign policy. The focus should be on
strengthening multipolarity and
South-South cooperation. More diplo-
matic efforts should be expended on
improving trilateral cooperation be-
tween India, China and Russia and on
strengthening groupings such as
BRICS, consisting of Brazil, Russia,
India, China and South Africa. Con-

certed moves are necessary to streng-

then cooperation among South Asian
Association for Regional Cooperation
(SAARC) members and promote clos-
er relations with Indias immediate
INDIA H AS S I G N E D many multi-billion-dollar defence and aviation deals neighbours. The unifocal obsession of
with the U.S. Here, the assault ship Jalashwa, acquired by the Indian Navy the Indian elite with the U.S. should
from the U.S. It is the Navys second largest ship. come to an end.

F R O N T L I N E 1 2 9
Cover Story APRIL 10, 2009

Political perceptions
In the policy perspectives of the Congress, the BJP and the Left, the emphasis is
on the economy. B Y V E N K I T E S H R A M A K R I S H N A N I N N E W D E L H I

Signicantly, the Congress and the Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. The Con-
gress and the BJP, the leading parties respectively of
BJP, the two main votaries of the ruling UPA and the opposition NDA, and the
Communist Party of India (Marxist), the largest
neoliberalism, have been compelled force in the emerging non-Congress, non-BJP politi-
cal grouping, are addressing these policy issues in
to acknowledge and accept their respective ways. The positions they adopt on
various issues will, by and large, dictate the line
the alternative policies advocated by followed by each of the three political formations. In
fact, the slogans evolved by these parties provide a
the Left for over a decade. broad indication of their policy thrust.
The slogan of the Congress is Stability and in-
A STRIKING characteristic of the last general clusive growth through inclusive governance and
elections was the subversive debate among vast sec- the party has sought to present it rather dramatically
tions of the electorate on policy issues relating to the by obtaining the rights of the A.R. Rahman-Gulzar
economy, development, social amity and political teams song Jai Ho (Towards Victory) in the Oscar-
leadership. The ruling National Democratic Alliance winning lm Slumdog Millionaire.
(NDA), led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was The BJPs platform is Good governance, devel-
convinced of a political wave in favour of the leader- opment and security. The partys attempt is to pro-
ship of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the ject this slogan on to the personality of its leader and
track record of his government. The NDAs India Prime Minister-candidate Lal Krishna Advani. A
Shining slogan was supposed to encapsulate both special slogan on Advani proclaims thus: Mazboot
Vajpayees leadership and the impression his go- neta, nirnayak sarkar (Strong leader, decisive go-
vernment had left on the country. The election re- vernment).
sults, however, did not match the NDAs The CPI(M) has summed up its campaign thrust
expectations of a wave and the projections it had as Towards a secular pro-people alternative, and
made on that basis. explained it as an attempt to form a non-Congress,
The NDAs defeat marked the collapse of a dream non-BJP government that would guarantee pro-
to recreate a political wave similar to the one that people economic policies, social justice, consistent
swept Rajiv Gandhi to power in 1984 after the assas- secularism, genuine federalism and an independent
sination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The Con- foreign policy. Of the three parties, the CPI(M) was
gress won a phenomenal 404 out of 514 seats in that the rst to come up with an election manifesto. The
election. Many issues, ranging from corruption in Congress and the BJP are expected to release their
high places to Hindutva communalism to social jus- manifestos formally in the last week of March.
tice to development, have dominated elections since Signicantly, the emphasis in the policy perspec-
then starting with the 1989 polls but no single tives of the three parties is on the economy. A variety
issue had an overwhelming emotive appeal. of factors, ranging from rising prices, widespread job
The run-up to the current general elections pre- losses and the overall economic slowdown, have con-
sents a similar picture. A number of questions relat- tributed to this focus. A survey conducted by the
ing to the economy, development, internal security, government shows that half a million jobs have been
foreign policy, communalism, corruption in govern- lost between September and December 2008. Many
ment and the corporate sector and the empower- economists and labour activists have contested this
ment of Dalits and other oppressed sections are estimate as unrealistically low.
discussed by the electorate, particularly in the con- The alternating inationary and deationary
text of the performance of the Congress-led United tendencies over the past one year have had a crip-

1 3 0 F R O N T L I N E
APRIL 10, 2009

abandonment of an independent for-

eign policy.

While all these issues and related in-
terpretations remain in the campaign
spectrum of the three parties, there is
little doubt that the central theme is
the economy. Obviously, their per-
spectives on the economy are bound to
be different. Still, there seems to be a
notable shift in the approach of both
the Congress and the BJP on the ques-
tion of pursuing policies of economic
Congress policy managers readily
come on record that policy changes are
required to ensure the continuance of
a stable economy. Advani has gone to
the extent of saying that the bubble of
Sensex-generated prosperity has
burst and that such undependable
devices of the free-market economy
cannot be the basis for building a truly
prosperous nation. He also admitted
that the BJPs India Shining cam-
paign in 2004 was a mistake.
Clearly, there is a realisation in the
ruling dispensation and the principal
opposition party that the policy of
blind and unrestrained liberalisation
would not be benecial in the long run

and that there is a need for alternative

economic policies. Whether the BJP
and the Congress will stick to these
perspectives and actually implement
them if they come to power is a moot
CP I( M ) G E N E R A L S E C R E T A RY Prakash Karat (right) and Polit Bureau
A number of Congress leaders in-
member Sitaram Yechury at the release of the partys election manifesto in
volved in formulating the partys man-
New Delhi on March 16.
ifesto told Frontline that the party
pling effect on the common people, as to evoke much response in the Novem- would focus naturally on the positives
retail prices have been steadily on the ber-December 2008 round of Assemb- in the UPAs ve-year term. The pos-
rise. As these economic policy-related ly elections, especially in Delhi. itives include the National Rural Em-
issues take centre stage, some of the In July 2008, when the UPA go- ployment Guarantee Scheme
perceived hot election topics have vernment was forced to face a con- (NREGS), the Right to Information
been reduced to supplementary status. dence motion in the Lok Sabha, the Act (RTI), the farmers loan waiver
These include matters relating to in- dominant view was that the India-U.S. programme, the National Rural
ternal security and the India-United nuclear deal, over which the Left par- Health Mission (NRHM) and Bharat
States nuclear deal. ties withdrew support to the govern- Nirman. They claim that these pro-
When the November 26-29, 2008, ment, would be the main election grammes have brought about far-reac-
terror attack on Mumbai happened, issue. The thinking was that the Con- hing improvement in the economy and
the BJP was convinced that internal gress would highlight the nuclear deal in health care, particularly in rural ar-
security would be the main theme of as an initiative to enhance Indian in- eas. The RTI will be highlighted as an
the 2009 elections. But the party had frastructure and the Left would casti- instrument that has strengthened
to change its view after the issue failed gate it as a clear instance of transparency in government.

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APRIL 10, 2009

CONG R E S S PR E S I D E N T S O N I A Gandhi at a public meeting in Hyderabad in February.
According to Mani Shankar Aiyar, and Accountability (CBGA) in its phasised that the Congress would have
Union Minister for Panchayati Raj study How did the UPA spend our to take into consideration the fact that
and a member of the Congress mani- money , the government has failed to superior economic performance
festo committee, one of the highlights live up to the promises made in the would not be easy in the years ahead.
of the partys campaign will be the in- CMP about increased expenditure in Talking to Frontline, he said: The
crease in social sector expenditure. He vital areas such as health and educa- global economic climate is cloudier
pointed out that during the tenure of tion. than it has been for a long time. When
the UPA government, poverty allevia- The CMP had promised to spend 9 2008-09 began, there was a percep-
tion programmes and schemes such as per cent of the gross domestic product tion of a cyclical downturn in the in-
the NREGS and Bharat Nirman have (GDP) on health (3 per cent) and edu- dustrialised world, but it has quickly
cumulatively recorded an outlay of cation (6 per cent). But the proportion snowballed into a global nancial cri-
Rs.1,20,000 crore. This, he added, was spent on education by the Union go- sis. Domestic policy action cannot
a fourfold increase on the spending in vernment, the study notes, increased completely negate the effect of a global
these segments by the previous NDA only to 0.69 per cent of the GDP in downturn as severe as this. We can at
government. 2008-09 from 0.42 per cent in 2004- best minimise its negative impact. So
M. Veerappa Moily, Chairman of 05. Similarly, the Union governments the manifesto would take into consid-
the Administrative Reforms Commis- expenditure on health increased only eration these aspects and try to streng-
sion, said these programmes signified to 0.34 per cent of the GDP in 2008- then the middle-path economic
the commitment to the Common Min- 09 from 0.26 per cent in 2004-05. The philosophy of mixed economy crafted
imum Programme (CMP) for Gover- study also notes that for large parts of by Jawaharlal Nehru.
nance evolved at the start of the UPAs the UPAs term, barring the last couple
term. of years, the allocations for agriculture INCLUSIVE GROWTH
and rural development were low. The party is seeking to put a new spin
UNKEPT PROMISES Many Congress leaders admit that on its policy and campaign thrust by
However, the Congress and the UPA the basic direction of the economic projecting the idea of inclusive go-
do not stand on such sure ground policy, guided by the principles of free- vernance. According to Mani Shankar
when it comes to many other segments market liberalisation, has contributed Aiyar, the programmes the party plac-
of the CMP. As evaluated by the Delhi- to such shortfalls on the promises es before the electorate are expected to
based Centre for Budget Governance made in the CMP. Veerappa Moily em- be based on the idea that inclusive

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APRIL 10, 2009

growth can be achieved only through tions. One instance of this is as follows: democracy, equality, justice and inte-
inclusive governance. Prime Minister The NDA government started with 5 gral human progress.
Manmohan Singh had also comment- per cent growth in 1998 and left an 3. Addressing the agrarian crisis on
ed earlier that inclusive growth, economy with 8.5 per cent growth in a priority basis.
which is the motto of the 11th Five- 2004. The UPA started with 8.5 per 4. Course-correction of the im-
Year Plan, can be achieved only cent and will leave it at 6.5 per cent or paired infrastructure development by
through inclusive governance. even lower. The Vajpayee government removing bottlenecks.
Mani Shankar Aiyar explained this ushered in condence and hope about 5. Strengthening the mechanisms
idea further, pointing out that in the future. Today there is only uncertainty for internal security and imparting the
social sector the expenditure for pover- and despair. right political leadership to the inter-
ty alleviation programmes had in- Talking to Frontline, Sudheendra nal security machinery.
creased 15-fold in the past 15 years Kulkarni, a prominent member of the Kulkarni quoted Advani to point
from Rs.7,600 crore in 1994 to BJPs think tank, said the party would out that just as the centre of gravity of
Rs.1,20,000 crore in 2008 but pover- highlight not only this but also the fact the world economy had shifted from
ty had not reduced in the same propor- that the UPA government was in de- the West to Asia, the centre of gravity
tion. Obviously, deciencies in the nial mode. of our national economy must shift
administrative system and the bureau- Once upon a time the Congress from India to Bharat to agricul-
cracy are responsible for that. It is here ascribed all problems to the foreign ture, revitalisation of villages, small
that implementing the concept of in- hand. Now, that has been replaced by and medium enterprises, and the un-
clusive governance using local elected the phrase external factors. Everyth- organised and informal sectors of the
bodies becomes relevant, he said. ing from price rise to economic slow- economy. The BJP would pursue a pol-
The concept of inclusive gover- down is being attributed to external icy that did not generate conict be-
nance has been written into the rst factors, he said. tween the public sector and the private
draft of the Congress manifesto. How- The BJP would come up with an sector, he said.
ever, Mani Shankar Aiyar was not sure ideological theme paper addressing On foreign policy, the BJPs posi-
what shape the manifesto would nal- the issues that confront the party and tion is that Indias autonomy in the
ly take, as it was being discussed and that would be followed by an NDA conduct of foreign policy has been seri-
redrafted at a broader level. The lea- manifesto, which would delineate the ously undermined. The partys leaders
dership, including Congress president framework for governance, Kulkarni pointed out that although India should
Sonia Gandhi, was exchanging ideas said. continue to have a close and multi-
with specialists in various elds and Over the past three months Advani dimensional friendship with the U.S.,
social activists involved in rural devel- has been interacting with a variety of the UPA government ignored the fun-
opment, health and education as part personalities and opinionmakers from damental truth that U.S. foreign policy
of this process. different sections of society as part of was guided primarily by its own na-
Interacting with the media in the an exercise to evolve a clear policy fra- tional interest and that India must do
second week of March, Congress man- mework. what was in Indias national interest.
ifesto committee chairman Pranab The interactions have been with The abandonment of autonomy,
Mukherjee suggested that the Con- the captains of industry and business, according the BJP leadership, was
gress had started moving in the direc- leaders of farmers, representatives of most evident in two issues: the han-
tion of inclusive governance, though a the security and strategic affairs com- dling of the menace of Pakistan-spon-
lot more had to be done. According to munity, economists, foreign policy sored terrorism and the India-U.S.
him, the party is seeking a renewed specialists and experts on social sector nuclear deal. Hindutva, the centre-
mandate, on the strength of having development. piece of the BJPs campaign in many
fullled the pledges it made in the Kulkarni said the consensus in all earlier elections, is being pushed for-
2004 manifesto. We will go to the these meetings was that the UPA go- ward rather surreptitiously on account
people reafrming our commitment to vernment had failed. The NDAs fra- of the pressure from NDA partners
provide security, dignity, prosperity mework for governance would provide such as the Janata Dal (United).
and the resolve to combat divisive and guidelines to undo this failure by fo- This stealthy campaign is being
communal forces. Only the Congress cussing broadly on the following is- done using organisations such as the
can provide a government with an all- sues: Sant Samaj (a grouping of Hindu reli-
India perspective as it is the only truly 1. Replacing the current direction- gious activists and leaders) and
national party, he said. less leadership with constructive and through meetings in small towns and
efcient leadership. villages. One such campaign initiative,
BJPS COUNTER-CAMPAIGN 2. Evolving a robust, self-condent by Varun Gandhi, the candidate-des-
The BJPs campaign thrust is on coun- nationally oriented model of develop- ignate in Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh, was
tering the UPAs claims and projec- ment, which is rooted in the ideals of exposed in the media, forcing the BJP

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APRIL 10, 2009

BJP LE A D E R S L . K . Advani and Rajnath Singh at the launch of the partys IT Vision Document in New Delhi
on March 14.
leadership to make public retractions as it also had promoted the same pol- mation on these lines. On the whole,
on its Hindutva agenda. icies. The manifesto described the BJP the political climate in the run-up to
as the most reactionary force in the the polls is marked by an unmistakable
LEFT PERSPECTIVE country , which is marked by pro-rich emphasis on the need for alternative
The CPI(M)s manifesto questioned and communal policies. social and economic polices.
the claims of both the Congress and The analysis of the governments The projected alternative polices
the BJP. It said the Congress-led coali- track record holds that wavering pol- are broadly based on the positions ad-
tion government pursued policies that icies intensied the agrarian crisis, vocated by Left parties over the past
were nakedly pro-rich and intensied curtailed the rights of workers, failed decade and a half, but what is most
the divide between the rich and the to check the rise of communal violence signicant is that even the Congress
common masses, while the BJP con- and favoured big corporates by grant- and the BJP, the two prominent votar-
ned itself to raising various issues, ing them tax benets and allowing ies of neoliberal policies during this
including that of terrorism, from the them to grab large tracts of land in the period, have been compelled to ac-
standpoint of Hindutva communal- name of industrial promotion. knowledge and accept them. This gen-
ism. The manifesto holds the Manmo- The role played by the Left vis-a- eral acceptance and acknowledgement
han Singh governments economic vis the Congress-led government is de- at the policy level has manifested itself
policies primarily responsible for in- scribed as that of a sentinel in the in- in the shifting of the BJPs erstwhile
ation and price rise. terests of the people. The manifesto allies such as the Telugu Desam Party,
It said the UPA government points out that two major pieces of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra
squandered the mandate of the 2004 legislation the NREGA and the Trib- Kazhagam and the Biju Janata Dal to
Lok Sabha elections by pursuing the al Forest Rights Act would not have the Left-led platform.
policies of liberalisation and privatisa- come about in the present form with- The big question, however, is how
tion, which stood discredited in the out the CPI(M)s intervention. far these shifts will concretise in terms
backdrop of the global economic crisis. The manifesto highlights the Lefts of realpolitik in the days to come. The
In a reference to foreign policy, the interventions that led to the protection answer lies in the realm of conjecture
manifesto criticised the Congress thus: of many public sector industries and because most of the smaller parties in
A party which sees the future of India the shielding of the banking sector the three formations, including the
tied to the coat-tails of the United from the impact of the global econom- relatively larger Bahujan Samaj Party,
States does not deserve to run the go- ic collapse. The proposed CPI(M) plat- normally ght elections without a
vernment of our sovereign democratic form is presented as one that would manifesto or well-dened policies, es-
republic. It pointed out that the ear- promote alternative policies and a sentially in order to enhance their po-
lier regime of the BJP was no different non-Congress, non-BJP political for- litical manoeuvrability.

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Published on alternate Saturdays.WPP No.CPMG/AP/SD-15/WPP/2008-2010 & MH/MR/South-180/2009-11.Postal Regn. No.TN/ARD/22/09-11. RNI No.42591/84